By Kelly Hudson and Wendy Bailey, FEMA Region IX
All 19 tribal entities in Nevada recently communicated via radio and satellite during a coordinated, simulated response effort. Wa´ma´gayam, which means lightning strikes, is the name of the exercise conducted on June 19 in partnership with the Nevada Inter-Tribal Emergency Response Commission, the State of Nevada Emergency Operation Center in Carson City, Nev., and FEMA Region IX.
Exercise objectives required tribal emergency operations centers in Nevada to demonstrate coordinated emergency communication capabilities at continuity facilities and devolution sites in response to cyber-attacks. The exercise focused on the tribes and the Inter-Tribal Emergency Response Commission’s ability to maintain response communications and situational awareness using the “Portable Communications and Incident Command System”, commonly known as the “disaster box.”
Terry Bohl, director of the Nevada Inter-Tribal Emergency Response Commission and Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, said, “the exercise not only proved the capability of the disaster boxes, but also that the tribes now have the capacity and knowledge to take care of themselves as first responders and their fellow tribal members within the state of Nevada.”
Each “disaster box” contains a lightweight satellite data terminal, a laptop for satellite terminal configuration, eight tablet devices, a wireless router, a satellite phone, and a portable 800 megahertz radio. Tribal emergency management personnel, some located on remote reservations were able to successfully use kit components to communicate with each other and with the Nevada State Emergency Operations Center without relying on a commercial communications infrastructure.
Evaluators monitored the effectiveness of the voice communications system through a call-down from the Nevada State Emergency Operations Center to each tribal entity via satellite phone and portable radio. Participants were then asked to establish Internet connectivity using the satellite terminal, access the state’s web-enabled crisis information system, update their status, and complete and submit an activity log. The FEMA Region IX Regional Response Coordination Center maintained situational awareness.
“It was encouraging to see all 19 tribal entities come together to participate in this important exercise,” said Steve Graves, FEMA Region IX exercise specialist, who was one of the exercise evaluators. “From my perspective, a majority of the participants were successful in meeting the exercise objectives.”
The Wa´ma´gayam exercise objectives paralleled those of the National Level Exercise 2012. The mobile devices and satellite airtime were purchased through FEMA Region IX and supported by the National Preparedness Directorate’s Training and Education Division.