CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- U.S. Army Garrison Japan, in coordination with Sagamihara City, conducted a humanitarian aid and disaster relief, or HADR, evacuation drill here March 21.
The drill gave both U.S. and Japanese participants the chance to practice their role in the event of an emergency and go through the proper procedures, such as accessing the installation, providing triage processing, establishing a "safe haven" site, and transporting injured evacuees to a triage point via ambulance.
William A. Luna, installation emergency manager for USAG Japan, explained the evacuation drill was a follow-up to a locally implemented agreement for limited disaster preparedness, including access to United States Forces Japan facilities, which Col. Phillip Gage, commander of USAG Japan, and Sagamihara City Mayor Toshio Kayama both signed earlier this month.
"We were working with our host-nation partners ... to exercise how we perform humanitarian aid and disaster relief for citizens off post," said Luna.
The scenario for the exercise was that a fire had broken out near Camp Zama and several local citizens were stranded with nowhere to evacuate other than Camp Zama, Luna said.
The evacuees were escorted onto the post from one of the installation's walk-in gates to the Camp Zama Community Club and then to Zama American Middle High School, where installation personnel had set up a temporary safe heaven with assistance from Soldiers assigned to Camp Zama's 88th Military Police Detachment and members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
"The purpose [of the evacuation drill] was to make sure that if there was ever an incident that happened off-post to endanger the lives of our partner citizens, we can safely and quickly evacuate them onto our installation and protect them so that we can save lives and strengthen our community," said Luna.
The evacuation drills help both USAG Japan and Sagamihara City continue to develop a strong partnership so that they can help one another in case of a disaster, Luna said.
"We built this relationship so that if we ever call [Sagamihara City] in need of their help, they help us," said Luna. "And if they ever call us, we help them."
Having a good evacuation plan in place and building a relationship with one's host country, and then regularly training on various scenarios to find any flaws in the process and fixing them, helps both the Army and its neighbors to be well-equipped and well-trained in the event that a disaster strikes, Luna said.
"We are all going to be one team fighting this disaster [if it happens] and making sure that we are saving as many people's lives as possible," said Luna.
Suzuki said, The drill helped the Sagamihara City residents and other workers who participated to familiarize themselves with the proper procedures, and also served to raise awareness for disaster preparedness, said Shinichi Suzuki, deputy director of emergency services for Sagamihara City.
"Our focus was to see how well U.S. Army Garrison Japan and Sagamihara City would work together during the disaster drill," said Suzuki. "We need to continue to build good a partnership by regularly exchanging ideas, sharing information and issues, and supporting each other's training opportunities."
Morikazu Seo, a local council chairman for the nearby Sobudaimae complex and evacuee role-player during the drill, said he is an advocate for improving his city's disaster preparedness, but admitted he was unsure an exercise of this scale was possible.
But after going through the process, Seo said he and the other participants learned that not only would they be able to come on to Camp Zama in such a scenario, but they went through the entire procedure step by step.
"I feel this exercise will definitely help local residents stay calm and reduce their stress in case of a disaster by knowing they can evacuate to a safe place like Camp Zama," said Seo.