First responders practice disaster scenario on Fort Hood


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist SCOTT McKENNEY

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Posted on May 15, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 15 at 6:20 PM

FORT HOOD, Texas -- The scenario: Someone has planted explosive devices across Central Texas and another one is going off in Fort Hood. It is the Force Protection Exercise, a two-day, full scale disaster scenario for first responders.

The participants make the disaster scene as real as possible. From their screams to their wounds. 

"I really did cry. I mean I was trying to make it as real as can be," said Uilani Dodd who works on Fort Hood.

"A couple of them actually turned my stomach," said Valerie Rice of the wounds created by moulage artist. "It looks scary if you look at it. It looks really scary. It looks real."  

The actions of the first responders are also real and they are having to deal with equipment that doesn't work.

"We did simulate a failure of communications in one area," said Fort Hood Fire Chief Billy Rhoads.

Fort Hood officials had been planning the exercise since last June. Fire Chief Rhoads said the exercise is critical for first responders to practice acting in a mass casualty disaster.

"You've got to be real serious about it because things like this do happen," Dodd said.

Many of the first responders and volunteers were on Fort Hood during an actual tragedy, the shooting in 2009. They say they can't help but bring some of those memories with them into the exercise.

"It was very, very scary. Wondering what was going on and hearing different things," said Rice. "But now I see what they really actually do and I feel safer actually."

"It definitely brings back memories of that event and we learn to deal with it," Rhoads said.

They practiced putting their emotions behind them to concentrate on saving lives. It was an exercise in keeping Central Texans safe.