Mt. Olive Hosts Large Deacon Drill

Posted on July 16, 2012

Wednesday night, June 6, was a first time event for local Police, Fire & Rescue.  At the Morris County Transfer Station, the Military, State, County, and Township participated in an aggressive homeland security drill involving a suspicious package. Three attack Blackhawk Helicopters from the Army National Guard in Lakehurst, commandeered by Lt. Col. John Sheard, simulated a bio hazardous event threatening our area in the form of a dirty bomb.  Coordinating this operation was his brother Robert Sheard.  As an overview, Fire Chief Brad Evans of the Budd Lake Fire Department explains that his department determines the course of actions during such an event.  For this exercise, the NJ State Police ROIC is contacted, that’s the central reporting system, and they request the aviation assistance.  This drill begins with a response to a Homeland Security event due to a so called ‘dirty bomb’, in NYC.  A dirty bomb implies a device that is designed to release something harmful upon detonation.   Two military Blackhawk helicopters are called to transport 8 passengers to Mt.Olive Township, NJ in order to conduct decontamination procedures after encountering dirty bomb material in the emergency activity in lower Manhattan.  This intense and extremely complex simulation involved a Blackhawk landing at Morris County MUA’s facility for decontamination of the craft and personnel due to contact with the potentially hazardous substance.  The Blackhawk craft replaces what many knew as the ‘Huey’. One helicopter proceeded with decontamination after exposure to the hazardous material of the bomb. Utilizing a blanket of spray foam, the second Blackhawk simulated significant mechanical problems that then resulted in a forced landing with a crash involving a fire. A blanket of spray foam is used.  The spray foam, which consists of water and soap suds, contains the flames, and workers donned in Level B suits, rescued and removed the passengers.  Due to the nature of this simulation, these suits, which come with masks and protect from bio hazardous materials and chemicals, are very hot to wear, and were required to extract the pilot and personnel. The deacon site was attended to by EMS and law enforcement to ensure safety and assistance to the passengers, and the handling of the necessary details to make safe the Blackhawks.  Using a wash off center and showers for removal of dangerous residue, areas for triage, treatment, and transport were designated for anyone injured or harmed.  Should such a situation ever exist in reality, the Transfer Station on Gold Mine Road in Flanders would be the actual place our protective services would congregate and do their work.  A third Blackhawk helicopter airlifted an investigative team which assembled to oversee the chopper crash.  When landing these aircraft, the pilots routinely circle to understand the complete area and then touch down.  It is quite a site. The air movement created by the propellers stirs a wind force capable of disabling someone too close by, and the debris set in motion and the whipping of the leaves on the trees is just as seen in a movie. Four separate divisions officially joined forces for the drill, law enforcement, military, local fire/rescue. Participating were Netcong, Hackettstown, Budd Lake, Flanders/Mt Olive, Washington Township, Brookside/Mendham, Roxbury Fire.  The EMS teams were squads from Flanders, Budd Lake, Hackettstown, Hackettstown Hospital, Lakeland, Stanhope, and Fairmont.  The Army National Guard participated with 25 members.  Law Enforcement established traffic control in the area, provided security and crowd control, and worked with the Military accident investigation team. The northern half of the state is now working on procedures for response, all are very aware that safety is paramount.  The February 2014 Super bowl will be hosted not far away.  Previously there has not been a plan in place for aviators and civil support by the National Guard.  When the drill was over, there was a review of lessons learned, and highlights were captured for future training.  Approximately 100 people participated in the drill; all are wiser, prepared, and ready. 

Story by Theresa - NJ Media