Tinker, off-base agencies rehearse multiple scenarios to prepare for attack

Tinker Air Force Base -- (Editor's note: The following is the second in a four-part series on Readiness and focuses on the various types of attacks the base could experience, what to do and where to go in the event of an attack. Next week's article will discuss different biohazard attacks and what to do in the event of an epidemic or pandemic.)

Recent events around the world and in Oklahoma serve as a grim reminder that no one is immune when it comes to being attacked by weapons of mass destruction.

Regardless of the threat, knowing what to do and where to go before, during and after a major event could save countless lives.

That's why emergency management officials at Tinker Air Force Base train constantly with off-base agencies to minimize the loss or degradation of resources and to sustain or restore operational capability in the event of a real-world incident.

And, as if the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the East Coast weren't enough, other attacks continue on a regular basis including in the nation's heartland with natural disasters, shooting sprees and other types of violent crimes.

"I believe Tinker may be a target for any CBRNE incident, possibly chemical and biological being the easiest to infiltrate and spread," said Mike Bower, Midwest City emergency manager.

CBRNE stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive.

Robert Swarens, special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations Oklahoma City Division's Joint Terrorism Task Force, said Tinker should expect and plan for every possible chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attack.

"Tinker, as a Department of Defense facility, should concentrate on the outcome of such attacks, but be cognitive of the fact the attack will be a crime scene and will be investigated," he said.

In the aftermath, Special Agent Swarens said, "Tinker should expect chaos and mass confusion, but individuals in and around the base should expect the government will do everything to ensure the public's safety and well being."

Steve Ferreira, Tinker emergency manager, said Tinker AFB Plan 10-2 covers all events to include response to a WMD incident and is exercised annually in accordance with Air Force Instruction 10-2501.

He said Tinker currently is on an implementation schedule to incorporate the Air Force Incident Management System to include training of responders, revising and updating plans and checklists, conducting exercises and consolidating all command and control functions through December 2008.

"We have already met requirements of training, draft plans and checklists and incorporated AFIMS into one of our local exercises to date," Mr. Ferreira said.

As further proof that Tinker continues to work with outside agencies to be prepared in the event of an attack, Master Sgt. Tim Francis, installation antiterrorism officer, said his office hosts two threat working groups per month consisting of Office of Special Investigations, intelligence, security forces, medical readiness and all other associate units.

"We identify and analyze threats to Tinker and provide recommendations to the installation commander for mitigation of the potential attack," Sgt. Francis said. "We ensure employees are aware of what to look for in a potential attack, whether it's mail bomb identification or suspicious activity."

Sgt. Francis said training materials located on the antiterrorism home page at https://wwwmil.tinker.af.mil/72abw/xp/xpx/at/default.asp can assist supervisors with spreading that information.

Mr. Bower went on to say he believes public education of employees and citizens is important and using the media and the Emergency Alert System is a good way of notifying folks in the event of a crisis.

"Having Tinker as a neighbor is a tremendous asset," he said. "They have some of the best equipment and well trained employees and are always willing to assist in time of crisis."

Terrorism can be defined as the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. for the purpose of intimidation, coercion or ransom.

Terrorists often use threats to create fear among the public, to convince citizens that their government is unable to protect them, and to get immediate publicity for their causes.

Acts of terrorism include: threats of terrorism; assassinations; kidnappings; hijackings; bomb scares and bombings; cyber attacks (computer-based); and the use of chemical, biological, high-yield explosives, radiological and nuclear weapons.

High-risk targets for acts of terrorism include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities, and high-profile landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, utilities, and corporate centers.

Letting people know where they can expect to get information and how they should go about getting it, according to Mr. Ferreira, will be determined during the first stages of the recovery phase of an incident and will be advertised through unit control centers, public affairs, the commander's access channel and the Straight Talk line.

Mr. Ferreira said some actions to consider before a terrorist event are to: learn about the nature of terrorism; be aware of your surroundings; take precautions when traveling; leave an area if you feel uncomfortable or if something doesn't feel right; assemble a disaster supply kit; create an evacuation plan for your family and have a backup route in mind; and determine an out-of-town relative that all family members can use as a contact if separated.

He said some actions to consider during a terrorist event include: take cover immediately (if a WMD or hazardous material is present, shelter in place and shut off or block ventilation systems); stay low to the floor or ground; listen to local radio and television stations for updates; and evacuate immediately if told to do so.

Actions to consider after a terrorist event, Mr. Ferreira said, are to: stay away from the event area (there may be a danger of secondary devices); check for injured and trapped personnel near the event area and provide first aid or CPR if trained to do so (be careful not to become a victim yourself if any signs of contamination from a WMD are present on the victim); listen to local radio and television channels for emergency information; check the damaged area for other hazards like downed power lines, gas leaks, etc.; notify unit personnel (supervisors, unit control center) or family members of your status as soon as possible; and use phone service sparingly.

Sgt. Francis said the best thing anyone can do to prepare for any kind of attack is to stay informed, adding, "Knowledge is power."

"It's paramount for everyone to know what to do in an attack, meaning knowing what your specific shelter in place plan is, knowing your evacuation plans and locations," he said. "Know who and when to shut down air handling units in the event of a chemical or biological attack.

"Some thought should also be put into your actions at home in the event of an attack. After all, the effects can spread past our gates."

Sgt. Francis said in the aftermath of any attack, accountability is of the utmost import.

"Contacting your supervisor and reporting your status as well as that of co-workers and family is a priority for leadership," he said.

Sgt. Francis said in the event force protection conditions are elevated to C or D, knowing whether you and your job are "mission critical" will determine what your actions will be in a higher FPCON.

"Every employee on this yard needs to know this and their leadership will be able to make the determination on whom and when they'll come to work," he said.

During a recent threat to Fort Dix, N.J., Sgt. Francis said investigators learned that Dover AFB, Md., was a potential target as well. However, he said, the would-be attackers saw Dover as too hard a target to pursue.

"That's what we want here at Tinker," Sgt. Francis said. "Knowing your role before, during and after an attack is only part of it. Being cognizant of your surroundings on and off duty and reporting anything suspicious to security forces or OSI is what thwarts a potential attack while the target identification is being conducted."

Jonny Conover, who works out of the installation exercise program office here, said base officials look for things that need improvement and work to improve those areas when they work with off-base counterparts.

Before, during or after an event, Mr. Conover said, referring to the old Boy Scout adage, "Be prepared."

To report suspicious activity, call security forces at 734-2000 or OSI at 734-7822.