Base, community exercise prepares responders for major emergencies

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The 96th Test Wing, local airport staff and first responders gathered for a major accident response tabletop exercise at the Okaloosa County Emergency Operations Center Aug. 29, 2023.

The exercise facilitates discussions between military, county and local airport staff that inspire better contingencies during major emergencies.


“It’s an outstanding opportunity to hold an exercise like this,” said Patrick Maddox, the Okaloosa County EOC director. “We hate to have to train for things like this, but what an opportunity to do a dry run at a great tabletop exercise.”

The exercise simulated a commercial airline crash, resulting in numerous fatalities, injuries and highway damage. The goal of the exercise was to strengthen the community’s emergency response plans and allow both military and civilian counterparts to collaborate, according to Joseph Suddarth, Eglin’s assistant fire chief and facilitator of the exercise.

“Our takeaway from this exercise is what ‘right’ looks like,” said Suddarth. “We focus on how we can better coordinate our plans, increase our effectiveness, strengthen our services’ resources, and focus on what areas we need to improve on.”

This tabletop was one of five phases in the accident response exercises, including prevention, preparation, response, recovery and mitigation. These exercises help establish and maintain shared situational awareness during each phase.

Representatives from the community’s military, county and local airport staff spoke about their organization’s action plans and lessons learned.

“As a part of this community, we’re going to make sure you all get the resources you need,” Dale Marks, 96th TW deputy director, said during closing remarks. “We’ll find a way to get to ‘yes’ collectively, and we’ll figure it out as a team.”