National Guard, Queen's Medical Center among those involved in largest-ever disaster exercise

National Guard, Queen's Medical Center among those involved in largest-ever disaster exercise

KALAELOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Here's the scenario: A large storage building at Campbell Industrial Park has collapsed in the wake of a powerful hurricane, trapping possibly hundreds of people. National Guard personnel are trying to find a way into the rubble.

It's all part of Hawaii's largest-ever disaster training exercise.

The "building" is actually some storage containers and assorted rubble piles in an area at the Hawaii Army National Guard facility at Kalaeloa. The National Guard units are performing duties as close to the real thing in the annual Vigilant Guard/Makani Pahili disaster exercises involving more than 2,200 guard members.

"We've got some new soldiers and they've got to train up," said Lt. Col. James Barros. "They got to come out an experience a new structure, a different environment that we're used to training in."

There are also hundreds of civilians involved, including the emergency staff at the Queen's Medical Center - West Oahu. they've set up triage tents and a decontamination unit and are dealing with a variety of injured people, portrayed by actors who provide the sights and sounds similar to those in a real emergency.

"If Campbell Industrial Park has an explosion, or any people get injured, we are the nearest facility so they will come to us either by ambulance, or they'll be coming by their own private car," said Dr. Ronald Kuroda, medical director at Queen's West Oahu.

Saturday's simulation is just part of eight days of disaster exercises around the state involving National Guard members from Hawaii, four other states and Guam. They've been working with county governments to hone their disaster response efforts for the real thing.

"We would support the counties and the first responders," said Barros. "So making those connections now, letting them know what kind of capabilities we have, then they know hat to ask for."

"A lot of us having done it for maybe a few years, so we got to jump back in and kinda get back in the groove again and kinda learn everything," said National Guard member Luke Kea. "It's a good experience."

Experience that will be valuable when a real disaster strikes.

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