The (fifth annual) 1997 Explorer Mock Disaster Exercise

Held at the old (abandoned) Stapleton International Airport in Denver, CO

May 4, 1997

The airport is "stripped" and no longer used since DIA opened, but was perfect for hosting such an event.

Each year, in May, Explorers from Longs Peak Council, Denver Area Council, and Pikes Peak Council (Front Range area of Colorado) plan and host a "mock disaster" which is open to Explorers from all interest areas and specialties, as well as Scout
Troops (who serve as "hostages" and injured "victims.")


This year, over 200 Explorers and Scouts participated in the "hostage/terrorist/bombing at an airport" scenario.  The Explorers
chose this scenario due to the importance of knowing how to effectively respond to such situations which regrettably seem to be increasing.  Many explorers will pursue careers in which this type of training is invaluable.

The incident was completely devised, planned and coordinated by the Explorer Steering Committee, composed of Explorers from Law Enforcement, Emergency Management, Firefighters, Emergency Medical Services, Search and Rescue, High Adventure/Outdoor, Civil Air Patrol/Aviation, and many other interest areas from the three councils.  Planning begins in late Fall and continues until the event occurs.  Meetings are held on alternate Friday nights in the early months, then on every Friday as the event approaches.

Turnout for the steering committee meetings averaged 20 to 30 Explorers which is quite a commitment for busy teens, especially on a Friday nite. Many traveled over 100 miles to attend meetings.  Specialized training for each group is conducted by the Explorer "team leaders"  (S.W.A.T., Arrest Teams, Hostage Negotiation, Perimeter, "Bad
Guys/Terrorists, EMS/Rescue, Firefighters, Incident Command/Emergency management/Communications, moulage/staging, Safety, et al).

Adult advisors are recruited to support and advise the Explorer Trainers and teams from each specialty area.  Support agencies include, Law Enforcement (Sheriff's and Police Departments sponsoring Explorer Posts as well as technicians from Department Bomb Squads), Federal Emergency Management Agency, Colorado State Patrol Hazardous Materials and Communications teams and units, American Red Cross, Fire Departments sponsoring Explorer Posts, Ambulance/EMS/Rescue Agencies, and many others.


After all "responders" were staged in appropriate areas, and the "bad guys" were in place, the event started with a loud "report" by the "bomb squad"  symbolizing the "explosion" which got the event off and running. The initial responders arrived, determined the magnitude of the event, and called for reinforcements from fire, EMS/rescue, hazardous materials, incident command, et al.  Hostage Negotiators established contact with the "bad guys/terrorists" and demands were established (some of the demands were for "pizza" and a helicopter, plus $27 million in cash).  In the meantime, SWAT teams entered the area, and isolated the terrorists, while negotiators arranged for release of the hostages. SWAT and arrest teams engaged the "bad guys" and released the hostages.

In the "explosion area," firefighters and EMS entered the area, "evacuated the (non-toxic theatrical) smoke," treated and transported the injured "victims" and triaged and transported numerous "casualties" according to trauma and medical triage codes (S.T.A.R.T system means special triage and rapid transport) red for priority 1, yellow for priority 2, and green for "delayed/walking wounded).

Safety Officers were given ultimate authority to prevent dangerous situations from actually occurring and to stop part or all of the exercise if a dangerous situation occurred.

The incident commanders were staged in the Colorado State Patrol Mobile Communications Center and used Tactical CAD (computer assisted dispatching)  programs to coordinate their resources and communications for all teams.

Evaluators from the various adult advisors provided a post-event critique for the Explorers to help them reflect on what went well and what they might have done differently to improve their response.  Critiques are always done positively, as the event is a learning experience and reflecting helps the Explorer get the most out of the experience.

Overall, the event is the best yet, and Explorers are already thinking about a "scenario" for next year's event.  A major benefit of the mock disaster is that it allows many posts to come together with different backgrounds, experience, and training, and to work together to managing  a mass casualty/major event to see how incident command is needed to effectively utilize all resources available for such emergencies.

One Emergency manager serving as an evaluator remarked of the Explorers and their handling of the event..."These young folks are really good at this,...I sometimes wish I had adult teams that were as well trained and effective in dealing with disasters.."  which is a real compliment!

For more information, please feel free to contact me.

Bob Amick, Explorer Advisor, High Adventure Explorer Post 72, Boulder, CO
Explorer Mock Disaster Steering Committee Advisor, Longs Peak Council