Written by Leon Roberts
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District
Nashville, TN – To participate in “America’s PrepareAthon” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District spent the first five months of 2016 preparing personnel, projects and facilities for possible future disasters, hazards and threats, and planning ahead for emergencies.
America’s PrepareAthon is a national campaign led by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency with Department of Defense participation and planning efforts.
“From emergency management to safety to dam safety to water safety to security at our government offices and recreation facilities, this campaign provided us a great opportunity for our workforce and our organization as a whole to increase our preparedness to minimize our vulnerabilities to disasters and emergencies,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, Nashville District commander.
The Nashville District held a number of exercises this spring to prepare senior leaders and ensure its crisis action team members understand roles and responsibilities during emergencies. Several New Madrid seismic exercises were conducted in March and April to prepare district personnel for possible earthquake response scenarios.
“We were able to create scalable responses to fit any size event,” said Jerry Breznican, Nashville District Emergency Management chief. “Our crisis management team also worked to develop a path forward in the development of an operational plan for our projects in the New Madrid seismic zone.”
Breznican said that the resource management section also led much-needed training in late 2015 with emergency managers on financial actions, rules and authorities on managing funding during a disaster.
“Making sure we are using the right pots of money and accounting for what is spent according to the law in each phase of an emergency response is very important to us,” Breznican said.
Preparedness also includes operating, inspecting and maintaining the district’s dams. The district’s dam safety committee held its semi-annual meeting in late May, which reviewed the status of dam safety projects, schedules, funding and programmatic items.
“It’s an opportunity for the committee to make decisions as a district that guide our dam safety program” said Kyle Hayworth, Dam Safety Program manager. “They are critical to maintaining a situational awareness on the safety, operation, and maintenance of our 10 projects on the Cumberland River.”
Kyle Tanner, Nashville District Safety Office chief, said that occupational health and safety initiatives are a priority given the district’s missions and service to the region. Keeping employees and the public safe is paramount and drives training initiatives, installation of safe practices, and oversight of the safety program, he said.
The Nashville District promotes safety internally and in conjunction with local partners and stakeholders. For instance, Ashland City Fire and Rescue and Dickson County Fire and Rescue collaborated with the Nashville District May 24th to perform confined space rescue training at Cheatham Power Plant and included a practical exercise scenario in a draft tube.
Cayce Tiesler, power plant supervisor, briefed the rescue teams on the history of the Cheatham Power Plant, layout of the plant and the design of the hydropower generators. Senior Mechanic Terry Hudgins gave a safety briefing, explained the nature of the work, potential hazards, condition of the units, equipment types and water current elevations.
“It was a great preparedness opportunity for everyone involved,” said Josh Lowery, safety and occupational health specialist in the Nashville District Safety Office. “This training will help our employees in the event someone needs to be rescued in a confined space.”
Security is another area that officials focused on for America’s PrepareAthon activities.
Jay Klinger, Nashville District Security Office chief, said employees dedicated some of their time on anti-terrorism training, operations security training, active shooter training, cyber awareness training, and threat awareness reporting.
“We’ve really done quite a bit of training,” Klinger said. “Our employees need to know about espionage, know how to recognize suspicious activities around our projects, know how to protect and generally how to make our work areas and facilities safer.”
With the recreation season in full swing, water safety is also a topic of interest for preparedness. In 2015 more than 33 million people recreated at Lake Barkley, Cheatham Lake, Old Hickory Lake, J. Percy Priest Lake, Cordell Hull Lake, Center Hill Lake, Dale Hollow Lake, Lake Cumberland, Laurel River Lake and Martins Fork Lake. A total of 14 people lost their lives on the water and none of those wore a life jacket.
“We spent a lot of time in a classroom reviewing applicable policy related to operation of our recreation areas and visitor assistance,” Klimaszewski said. “Our park rangers also participated in a self-defense refresher course.”
Park rangers are also receiving training in June on public engagement and enforcement protocols, which includes practical exercises on boating enforcement, communicating with visitors, and radio communications with law enforcement partners.
The district’s park rangers also worked with camera crews in the spring to appear in more than 30 water safety public service announcements that were shared with media on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System website and will be shared on social media pages throughout the summer and into the fall of 2016. PSA topics included wearing life jackets and water safety, boating safety, hunting safety, camping safety, and recreational opportunities.