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Tampa VA Supports Tampa International Airport Mass Casualty Exercise

Mass casualty group Photo
Tampa VA leadership and observers at MASCAL exercise.

#Team Tampa VA supports with leadership, participation and observation at Tampa International Airport's mass casualty exercise honing skills and forging collaboration with federal, county and city first-responders.

Tampa VA’s Executive Leadership Team, Chief of Staff’s Office, Emergency Department, Simulation Lab, Mental Health, and Transportation Service were coordinated under the Hospital’s Emergency Management Department to participate in Tampa International Airport’s "Operation Pelican Down," exercise, September 21.

The multi-agency mass casualty drill fulfills the Federal Aviation Administration requirement for conducting a disaster exercise every three years. Agencies worked together to respond to a simulated aircraft incident involving a fuel fire, mass injuries and fatalities.

Tampa International Airport conducts exercises with community partners to practice responding to potential major incidents. Tampa VA stands side-by-side with agency participants.

“Besides building relationships we may need later, our partners can depend on us to respond to off-campus emergencies when they need us,” said Executive Director of Tampa VA, Mr. David Dunning.

“We’re part of the community. VA is your next-door neighbor. We’re not outsiders. We’re not some organization living in Washington, D.C. We’re around the corner,” said Dunning.

Thirty-two federal and local agencies convened on Tampa International Airport’s designated runway. Tampa VA’s Emergency Management Department arrived early that morning to stage command-and-control tents where the latest information on exercise status was provided for agency actors. They also set up essential vehicles and patient movement assets.

“Tampa VA’s Emergency Management Department oversees coordination as part of VA’s fourth mission of community response partnered with the Federal Aviation Administration and other local responders to prepare for potential real-world disasters,” said ED Nurse and Disaster Emergency Personnel System Member, Shannon McGowan.

Mass casualty exercises like this allow first line responders and support staff to gauge and strengthen emergency response readiness, command, control, communication and technology assets so that in a real-world incident agency coordination isn’t deficient.

Looking to the future, Dunning said, “They’ll help us when we set up our Federal Coordinating Center exercise. We become the center of attention to move casualties. Tampa VA will set the whole thing up.”

“The upcoming FCC exercise gives us a good opportunity to work with the community. Today we trained and recognized who our partners are so that when the FCC stands up, we know teams,” said VHA Office of Emergency Management’s Darryl Stevenson.

Stevenson’s area of responsibility spans from Tampa, Bay Pines, North Florida-South Georgia and is temporarily providing oversight to West Palm Beach and Miami.

“Today’s exercise gives us a chance to know who we’re working with,” said Dunning. “When we pick up the phone, I’m talking to a person I know. Roles are already established.”

Actors and observers alike walk away from the exercise knowing that roles are designated, and mutually beneficial relationships have been formed.


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