Can Alaska properly respond to a catastrophic emergency?
On Tuesday, the Alaska National Guard hosted a guided discussion wargame with senior military leaders from Alaska, along with state and federal partners. The intent is to strategically assess established planning, preparation and procedures for a specific disaster scenario in Alaska.
The tabletop wargame exercise, "Arctic Stardust 2018," is meant to identify any gaps the state may have in emergency responses.
"In our situation, as most people know, we are far removed from the cavalry," said Maj. Gen. Laurie Hummel, the Alaska National Guard's adjutant general. "We need to have Alaska-based resources that can help us to respond. We are making our case and it's difficult to always make the case in Washington D.C. when they don't understand what we are up against here in Alaska."
Many states conduct similar wargames, but Alaska is the first state to develop and execute a local-level wargame with other agencies to specifically identify a perceived capability gap in emergency response.
"If you have six different agencies responding, they are all going to overlap slightly in what they do," said Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead. "Where does one start and where does the other one end? We don't want to have any 'whoopsy-daisy' scenarios where the emergency coverage doesn't line up. Those are just a few things we want to address to make sure everyone is on board."
The scenario discussed is a catastrophic incident that would require Alaska's 103rd Civil Support Team, a National Guard unit that responds to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threats.
"With our leaders together doing this tabletop exercise," Hummel said, "we put our heads together and determine what is it we cannot do in a certain situation. We will have lessons learned so we will have better plans and more meaningful exercises to allow us to respond better to real-world events.
Beyond preparedness on the state level, Hummel said the wargame will hopefully familiarize Pentagon leaders with Alaska's unique issues.
"We're also hoping that the Department of Defense recognizes through what we determine in this exercise, that we have needs and they need to be addressed here in Alaska so that we can respond better for the safety and security of Alaskans." Hummel said.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.