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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard trains with civilian partners in disaster response

Minnesota National Guard ST PAUL, Minn- Approximately 200 personnel from nearly 30 local, state and federal agencies participated in Vigilant Vortex 2014, an exercise that tested the ability of the Minnesota National Guard and other agencies to respond to several consecutive disasters across the state, August 12-14, 2014

"Exercises like Vigilant Vortex and Vigilant Guard provide an opportunity for our Soldiers and Airmen to strengthen working relationships with interagency partners and to practice our response procedures in a controlled environment," said Maj Taylor Cox with the Minnesota National Guard "If we are exchanging business cards during an actual incident, we aren't doing our jobs"

The scenario simulated multiple tornadoes touching down across the state within a five-hour timeframe With participants working in St Paul, Duluth and Camp Ripley, the exercise began in the immediate aftermath of these disasters and forced responders to act quickly and work together to save lives and protect property for the citizens of Minnesota

"Working effectively with Homeland Security and Emergency Management and other interagency partners requires a unified approach and a common language," said Cox

That common language is defined by the National Response Framework, the National Incident Management System and the Incident Command System which provide a disaster response structure that is used across the Nation at the local, state and federal levels

"It is critical that our Soldiers and Airmen understand this framework and are fully prepared to operate in the domestic environment," said Cox

Conducting disaster response drills and exercises with interagency partners not only builds relationships, but also helps to work through problems that could arise during a real emergency

"We learned a lot; we got a chance to test some of our processes," said John Blood with Minnesota's Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency "Commonly used requests were coming in and we were able to take a look at those requests and work with them"

"It helped us in working with our emergency management partners who were playing in the remote locations," said Blood "Sometimes they were able to bring some things to us that caused us to really have to reevaluate what we were thinking and that is a wonderful thing It was a very productive couple of days"

The American Red Cross and other volunteer organizations used this opportunity to exercise their plans for opening and operating emergency shelters, including setting up a shelter for pets

"We set up a full-blown shelter up at Camp Ripley including sheltering for pets with one of our VOAD partners," said David Schoeneck with the American Red Cross "It's enabling us to understand what kind of needs we can fulfill for the state and for our work with the military and with our civilian counterparts at HSEM"

The exercise was geared toward helping the Minnesota National Guard prepare for Vigilant Guard 2015, a full-scale exercise sponsored by US Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau to improve emergency coordination, response and recovery management with federal, regional, local, civilian and military partners

August 15, 2014
by Master Sgt Blair Heusdens
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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