Response Exercise

N.M. First Responders, National Guard Test Skills in Earthquake Exercise

News Aug 14, 2017

Aug. 13—”I don’t know where my husband is! Where is he?” screamed Kay Kay McDermott, blood streaming down her face from a large laceration as emergency responders helped her from the wreckage of a train at the Lamy train station one morning last week. Meanwhile, her husband, Stacy McDermott, gritted his teeth against the pain of a fractured leg; some of the bone had forced its way through the skin.

Fortunately, the injuries of the Edgewood couple were nothing more than special-effects makeup and the “wreckage” was actually a fully functional and intact Rail Runner Express car.

The pair were among around 100 actors that assisted with an emergency preparedness exercise involving the New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Louisiana National Guards and local, state and federal agencies in Lamy on Tuesday.

“This was all for the first responders so they can hone their skills,” Stacy McDermott said. “We try to make it as real as possible.”

The train derailment exercise was a portion of a massive exercise performed in northern New Mexico from Aug. 3 through Thursday.

Staged by the U.S. Army’s North Command as part of its “Vigilant Guard” exercise series, the scenario simulated the aftermath of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake striking the Albuquerque area.

Four of the federally funded exercises are performed each year throughout the country, tailored to each state’s goals and possible emergency scenarios.

Vigilant Guard senior planner Russ Coble said it takes around 18 months to design each exercise.

“I think beyond being fun, it’s rewarding,” Coble said. “You come out of an exercise knowing that you helped that state protect its citizens.”

In Tuesday’s exercise, aftershocks from the quake caused a passenger train to derail and strike a stationary car that contained anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical.