Emergency responders from Fort Hood partnered with police, firefighters and emergency medical services from neighboring cities Wednesday for a large-scale Force Protection Exercise.

The annual exercise, which took place over a two- day period, tasked the participating entities with responding to a large-scale simulated emergency. This year’s exercise included participation by police, firefighters and EMS workers from Fort Hood, Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove and Temple.

“These exercises are very important,” said Billy Rhoads, Fort Hood’s fire chief. “They allow us to prepare to respond to real-world incidents.”

On post, emergency personnel were tasked with responding to an explosion in an administrative building in the southwest section of Fort Hood. The exercise included soldiers and civilian employees who volunteered to act as disaster “victims” complete with realistic looking wounds.

“We were told to try and make things as realistic as possible,” said Valerie Rice, a civilian employee with Fort Hood’s Civilian Leadership Development Program. “We were lying on the ground and crying for help and screaming ... it was very dramatic.”

This year, the simulated disaster scenario centered around multiple explosions both on and off post.

In addition to the “explosions” at Fort Hood, there also were similar simulated explosions at Central Texas College in Killeen and in Harker Heights.

Rhoads said this was the first year that portions of the exercise were moved to sites off Fort Hood, testing responders’ coordination and ability to work as their resources were stretched.

“This year we worked on a much larger scale,” he said. “Communication really became a key element.”

This year’s exercise was conducted just short of one month after the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West. While Rhoads said the emergency scenario for this year’s exercise was created long before the West disaster, he also said the incident in the small Texas community highlighted the importance of emergency preparedness, and the mutual aid agreements between Fort Hood’s emergency response agencies and those in neighboring communities.

“We rely heavily on our partners for assistance, and they rely on us,” he said.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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