Operation “Southern Wind” — Our First Responders Train for a “Dirty Bomb” Terrorist Attack

This week, as a board member of the Orange County Fire Authority, I had the amazing opportunity to observe the 2019 Urban Search and Rescue Multi-Task Force Mobilization Exercise “Southern Wind” at the Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic, California, in which our first responders trained to deal with a “dirty bomb” terrorist attack.

The scenario was that a vehicle containing a “dirty bomb” had exploded, spreading radioactive contamination and toxic smoke across a wide area and demolishing a mall and a hospital, with many fatalities and injured victims, as well as many people trapped in the rubble.

The participating agencies included the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), Cal Trans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Branch, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), California US&R Task Force 5 (CA-TF5) from OCFA, California US&R Task Force 6 (CA-TF6) from the Riverside Fire Department, California US&R Task Force 8 from the San Diego Fire Department, and the HazMat Task Force from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The goal of the exercise was to demonstrate the ability of Southern California-based local, state, and federal US&R Task Forces to meet FEMA Operational Readiness Exercise Evaluation Program requirements, and demonstrate Multi-Task Force cooperation in response to an incident involving a Radiological Dispersal Device.

The overall Incident Commander, and most of the section commanders, were with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Among the actions taken were decontamination and securing of the area, searching for victims (including using search dogs), and extraction of victims from the rubble (including using cranes to lift debris and motor vehicles).

Due to the danger of exposure to radiation, the crews needed to rotate frequently.

My very helpful and patient “guide” during the exercise was OCFA US&R Coordinator Captain Richard Ventura.

Also taking time to keep me informed was OCFA Captain Wendy Norwood, whose normal duty station is OCFA Fire Station 27 in Portola Springs.

I was tremendously impressed by the smoothness and thoroughness of the operation, the coordination and cooperation among the different agencies, the amazing level of skills demonstrated, and the dedication of all the participants.

I was also extremely proud of the leadership role taken by our own Orange County Fire Authority.

Thank you to all our dedicated first responders for continually training to keep us safe!

Here are some more of the photos and videos I took during the exercise:

 

 

 

 

Visiting the California Firefighter Memorial: Honoring Those Who Gave All

I made a visit to the California Firefighter Memorial this afternoon and it deeply touched my heart.

Fire and firefighters are in the news today, as hundreds of brave firefighters risk their lives to battle the flames trying to consume the irreplaceable and magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

These days, fire and firefighters are often in my thoughts, both as a member of the board of directors of the Orange County Fire Authority and as the mother of a 20-year-old who is studying firefighting at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and serves as an EMT and member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough HazMat Team.

In fact, fire and firefighters should be in all our thoughts, as California’s wild land fire season expands to year-round, and more and more Californians live on the very edge of extreme fire-danger zones.

The truth is, fires in California have become more frequent and more dangerous, and Californians have never relied more on well-trained, well-equipped, well-led and brave firefighters risking all to keep our lives and property safe.

The California Firefighters Memorial is located on the grounds of the California state capitol in Sacramento and honors the more than 1,300 California firefighters who have died in line of duty or of other duty-related illness or injury.

The California Fire Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by California Professional Firefighters, raised the money to construct the Memorial and is responsible for its ongoing upkeep. Ongoing fundraising ensures the continued maintenance of the Memorial with no taxpayer dollars.

The California Firefighters Memorial was unveiled on April 6, 2002, carrying the names of 855 fallen California firefighters. Since the unveiling, more than 400 names have been added at annual Memorial ceremonies.

The Memorial has three components that work together seamlessly:

The Memorial Wall: A two-sided brushed limestone wall on which is inscribed the names of every firefighter who has died in the line of duty since California became a state. The wall is flanked by bronze statues of firefighter “turnouts” – the protective garments worn by firefighters in action

“Fallen Brother”: A bronze statue, directly adjacent to the wall, that honors our fallen heroes. It depicts an anguished firefighter removing a lifeless colleague from the flames. The statue was created by Jesus Romo, a retired Sacramento firefighter

“Holding the Line”: A bronze statue depicting four firefighters in action working a hose line. The statue was created by artist Lawrence Allen Noble.

You can see the names on the Memorial Wall here.

Be sure to visit when you come to Sacramento.

In addition, the California Fire Foundation invites you to join in memorializing the sacrifice and dedication of California’s fallen heroes at the 17th Annual California Firefighters Memorial Ceremony on September 28, 2019, at 11:30 a.m.