With Washington state's search and rescue teams busy with the aftermath of a deadly mudslide, a large-scale disaster exercise in nearby Alaska found itself short on participants.
The exercise, Operation Shield, had been in the works for two years. But members of California Task Force 3, sponsored by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, got only a few hours' notice that they were being asked to fill in, according to Chief Harold Schapelhouman. The last-minute scramble was nothing new for a team that saw deployment after the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina.
"Essentially, our folks are in their comfort zone of controlled chaos right where we want them to be in preparation for a real emergency," Chief Schapelhouman said in a press release. He described the invitation as "an incredible honor for our team."
Seventy-two team members flew to Alaska at 3 a.m. on Thursday, March 27, to join the Anchorage Fire Department and National Guard over the following 24 hours in an exercise involving a debris pile simulating a structure collapsed by an earthquake. They then returned home on Saturday night.