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Handling emergencies one crisis at a time

Tech. Sgt. Cody West, second to left, 21st Civil Engineering Squadron emergency management operations non-commissioned officer-in-charge, teaches his students how to decontaminate during a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive class Aug. 22, 2019 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. There are four phases that emergency management specialists are trained for: prepare, respond, mitigate and recover. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

Tech. Sgt. Cody West, second to left, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management operations non-commissioned officer-in-charge, teaches his students how to decontaminate during a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive class Aug. 22, 2019 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. There are four phases that emergency management specialists are trained for: prepare, respond, mitigate and recover. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

When disaster strikes, the Air force divides into two categories — those who need help, and those who provide help.

Air Force emergency management specialists are among those who provide help. Their mission is to prepare, plan, train, educate and equip Air Force personnel to respond to, maintain mission capability during and recover from crisis situations. Those situations can include major accidents, natural disasters, weapons of mass destruction and wartime chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive attacks.

The section conducts several types of EM training: CBRN survival skills and emergency operations center procedures, as well as unit EM representative and unit control center requirements.

“Emergency management wears three different hats: emergency management, hazmat technician and CBRN,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Griffin, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management operations noncommissioned officer in charge.

Emergency management specialists are considered a kind of emergency responder, but do not get them confused with first responders such as medical, police and fire department personnel.

“If there seems to be some type of hazmat or chemical related incident, the first responders won’t hesitate to call us to identify the material,” Griffin said. 

There are four phases that emergency management specialists are trained for: prepare, respond, mitigate and recover.

“We develop contingency plans for dealing with emergencies and establishing pre-determined mobility, response and recovery procedures that can minimize causalities and damage, and help those affected by disaster,” Griffin said.

CBRN is the most common affiliation with EM.

“Everyone typically knows us for CBRN and only see us when they are due,” Griffin said. “I enjoy this part of my job. We all need the basic knowledge of CBRN.”

Griffin was recently an instructor at Silver Flag at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, but his time there was cut short due to Hurricane Michael, which made landfall on October 10, 2018.

“I love teaching,” Griffin said. “With the knowledge I gained during my past deployments, I am able to help people. I appreciate the lightbulb moments with the students during class when they finally understand something that I am teaching.”

Anyone with readiness and emergency management questions or concerns should call 719-556-4134.

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