POSTED July, 2013

Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Lamoria
National Strike Force
Pacific Strike Team

photo 1 - PST Reno tunnel exercise

Twelve members of the Pacific Strike Team participated in an annual tunnel exercise at The Regional Public Safety Training Center in Reno, Nev., May 20-24, 2013. 
The PST spent three days training at the facility, developing plans and utilizing specialized instruments to respond to a variety of scenarios. The center, which hosts six different local public agencies, provided an opportunity for the members of the PST to train on leaking rail cars, collapsed buildings and confined spaces.
The training exercise was initiated Friday, May 17th, when the PST received a simulated emergency call from a regional Environmental Protection Agency On-Scene Coordinator requesting strike team support in response to a simulated 4.5 magnitude earthquake in the Reno area. More specifically, the EPA OSC requested strike team assistance in making entries to a collapsed college laboratory that had the possibility of containing hazardous waste and several radiation sources. 
Petty Officer 1st Class Karen Sinkey, the response supervisor, took action selecting and mustering her team that afternoon and prepared the Hazardous Material Response Trailer with all of the possible resources that may be needed on site. 
The PST was asked by the EPA OSC to survey the scene of the collapsed college lab as well as mark and identify any radiation sources that were encountered. The specific goals of the day were to successfully construct a decontamination line, develop a site safety plan and make entries into the zone to survey the scene. The team also had to identify and mark five radiation sources amongst the rubble and debris. The PST entry teams were successful in locating the radiation sources, providing a great opportunity to hone their surveying skills while utilizing radiation detection equipment.
On the second day, a simulated earthquake had significantly damaged two railcars and they were actively leaking. The railcars were thought to be carrying the extremely hazardous material, methyl chloride.  After setup of a decontamination line, safety briefs and personal protective equipment dress out, the first entry team was sent into the potential contamination area to attempt to secure the source of the leak. 
 “The tunnel exercise was a great opportunity for the PST members to come together as a team, and put the skills that we have learned to work in the field,” says Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeffrey Burby, a machinery technician with the PST.

photo 2 - PST Reno tunnel exercise

Confined space entries are something the PST rarely has the opportunity to do in life-like scenarios. The facility provided the appropriate training aids and spaces necessary to safely train some of the new strike team members in a controlled environment.
“There is no better way to develop the relationship of the crew.  Deployment to a remote site takes precision, planning and execution and must be practiced constantly,” said Jim Pitkin, training coordinator for the PST. 

If the Pacific Strike Team’s members encounter any of the scenarios that were presented here in a real life scenario in the future, they are armed with the experience from the exercise and will be more prepared now than before.