Contingency planning Pentagon MASCAL exercise
scenarios in preparing for emergencies
Story and Photos by Dennis Ryan
MDW News Service
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D.C., Nov. 3, 2000 The fire and smoke from the downed passenger
aircraft billows from the Pentagon courtyard. Defense Protective
Services Police seal the crash sight. Army medics, nurses and doctors
scramble to organize aid. An Arlington Fire Department chief dispatches
his equipment to the affected areas.
Don Abbott, of Command Emergency Response Training, walks over
to the Pentagon and extinguishes the flames. The Pentagon was a
model and the "plane crash" was a simulated one.
The Pentagon Mass Casualty Exercise, as the crash was called, was
just one of several scenarios that emergency response teams were
exposed to Oct. 24-26 in the Office of the Secretaries of Defense
On Oct. 24, there was a mock terrorist incident at the Pentagon
Metro stop and a construction accident to name just some of the
scenarios that were practiced to better prepare local agencies for
To conduct the exercise, emergency personnel hold radios that are
used to rush help to the proper places, while toy trucks representing
rescue equipment are pushed around the exercise table.
Cards are then passed out to the various players designating the
number of casualties and where they should be sent in a given scenario.
To conduct the exercise, a medic reports to Army nurse Maj. Lorie
Brown a list of 28 casualties so far. Brown then contacts her superior
on the radio, Col. James Geiling, a doctor in the command room across
Geiling approves Brown's request for helicopters to evacuate the
wounded. A policeman in the room recommends not moving bodies and
Abbott, playing the role of referee, nods his head in agreement.
"If you have to move dead bodies to get to live bodies, that's
okay," Abbott says as the situation unfolds .
Geiling remarked on the importance of such exercises.
"The most important thing is who are the players?" Geiling
said. "And what is their modus operandi?"
Brown thought the exercise was excellent preparation for any potential
"This is important so that we're better prepared," Brown
said. "This is to work out the bugs. Hopefully it will never
happen, but this way we're prepared."
An Army medic found the practice realistic.
"You get to see the people that we'll be dealing with and
to think about the scenarios and what you would do," Sgt. Kelly
Brown said. "It's a real good scenario and one that could happen
A major player in the exercise was the Arlington Fire Department.
"Our role is fire and rescue," Battalion Chief R.W. Cornwell
said. "We get to see how each other operates and the roles
and responsibilities of each. You have to plan for this. Look at
all the air traffic around here."
Each participant was required to fill out an evaluation form after
the training exercise.
"We go over scenarios that are germane to the Pentagon,"
Jake Burrell of the Pentagon Emergency Management Team said. 'You
play the way you practice. We want people to go back to their organizations
and look at their S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) and see
how they responded to any of the incidents."
Burrell has coordinated these exercises for four years and he remarked
that his team gets better each year.
Abbott, in his after action critique, reminded the participants
that the actual disaster is only one-fifth of the incident and that
the whole emergency would run for seven to 20 days and might involve
as many as 17 agencies.
"The emergency to a certain extent is the easiest part,"
Abbott said. He reminded the group of the personal side of a disaster.
"Families wanting to come to the crash site for closure."
In this particular crash there would have been 341 victims.
(Ryan is a staff writer with the Fort Myer Military Community's