When the City of Denver asked us to help coordinate approximately four hundred role players for Operation Mountain Guardian, several thoughts went through my head. “Wow, that is a lot!”, “Okay, we can do that. Piece of cake.” and “Do we have enough resources to spread ourselves out for this project?”
After the first few meetings we discovered that we needed individuals at three of the main locations to help coordinate the role players and keep track of them while they were there. Donita got assigned to Park Meadows, Gary to Smedley Elementary School and Max and I to Community College of Aurora, Lowry campus.
At the Lowry location we were asked to help out with coordinating and managing the building and props that would be used during the exercise in addition to the role players. Many hours were spent sorting and preparing clothes and other donated goods for the ‘hotel’ scene that would be in play. Many volunteers also spent several days cleaning the building that was to be used and staging the props to make it look like a real long stay hotel.
While on this assignment, we met volunteers that went out of their way to help us with these objectives and several new friendships were made. At one point, we were offered a sum of money in exchange for the help we were providing. While this offer was appreciated, we declined the offer. O.M.E.G.A. does not charge for its services. For us the bigger accomplishment was the relationships and the friendships being made with a new agency.
Having approximately 200 role players at our site alone, Max and I quickly realized that we’d need more help controlling all of the role players and keeping track of where they were to be at all times. So I made lots of calls and sweet talked several of our members and others who help us on a regular basis and asked them to help with this huge task.
When September 23 rolled around, we were armed with a dozen people dressed in purple, stationed in various places to make sure that everyone got to the right location, had food to eat and stayed warm in the chilly building. We had two people that panicked when gunfire sounded near them and the realism set in and we had one person that got stung by a bee that resulted in an allergic reaction and needed to be transported off campus. All three of these folks recovered and the purple squad of O.M.E.G.A. staff handled each case with ease and lack of panic.
All in all, the experience was good for several reasons. We learned more about how to organize a huge exercise, how our local emergency services would respond in a terrorist attack and that there is more involved in planning for role players then just showing up and signing them in.
At the end of the day I found myself going over those first questions that I had after the initial meeting. “Wow, that is a lot!” Yes it was a lot, but we managed to make due at all the locations without many problems. We brought in volunteers who have worked with us in the past to support this effort. “Okay, we can do that. Piece of cake.” It was true, we could do it. It was a bigger cake then just one piece, but we managed to get it done. It was also one of the best cakes we enjoyed all year. All the hard work was well worth the effort. “Do we have enough resources to spread ourselves out for this project?” Indeed we did! Large scale situations such as this is the reason agencies create mutual aid agreements. No one can tackle a large disaster on their own. Building partnerships in advance is invaluable.
It was a great experience and I would gladly do it again if we are asked.