March 27, 2008

“Cardinal Freeze” helps prepare for possible Virginia crisis situation

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND — Senior staff officers from the Virginia National Guard took part in the “Operation Cardinal Freeze” training exercise March 20 at the Virginia Emergency Operations Center in Richmond to assess the procedures in response to a winter storm causing widespread power outages.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management hosted the exercise, and the format was a facilitated, discussion-based tabletop exercise where representatives from different state agencies were able to talk through probable responses through three distinct phases of time. The representatives were grouped together by function and included command staff, emergency services, infrastructure support, human services, plans, logistics and public information.

One of the key objectives of the exercise was to examine the Commonwealth’s plans and procedures to conduct response and recovery operations and the process to share critical information and maintain situational awareness with jurisdictions impacted by a severe winter storm. The exercise also examined the planning and capabilities of supporting sheltering to protect the population from a severe winter storm.

“The exercise program helps us all get better in how we can best support the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Col. Tom Wilkinson, exercise director for the Virginia National Guard. “This type of table top exercise allows us to walk through the process and ensure we have all the right players and capabilities identified.”

The Virginia Guard had representatives in all the major groups, and they were able to educate other state agencies about the capabilities of the Virginia National Guard in state emergency situations.

“The ability to share ideas and talk through issues prior to an actual disaster is a win-win for all participants.” Wilkinson said. “The further building of a rapport between our sister agencies will continue to pay dividends as we work as a team to provide the best support for our citizens.”

The Cardinal Freeze exercise is the first of a series of exercises scheduled for the next several months, all aimed at improving the ability of state agencies to respond to the needs of citizens in a time of crisis.

“It is important that we have an exercise program that not only involves our organization, but other state agencies as well,” he said. “As we begin domestic operations, we will be knee deep with our state partners, so it behooves us to work together and focus on these issues in a training environment rather than during an actual disaster.

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