May 2 helicopter exercise at the UO isn’t the real deal
A word to the wise about the Black Hawk helicopters that will be hovering above – and landing on – the University of Oregon campus during a quasi-military operation on May 2: this is a test; it is only a test.
The same goes for a practice run on Friday, April 27, when a helicopter will hover low over campus but won't land during approaches scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The full exercise on May 2 -- which will also involve about 150 Oregon Military Department members -- is part of a nationwide series of scenarios called Vigilant Guard, which will unfold at various locations during the week of April 30. The incidents are designed to test the readiness and capabilities of local and statewide emergency management providers.
At the UO, the scenarios are intended as preparation for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in June. First-responders including local police, medic units, the National Guard and others will staff a command center at Hayward Field as well as a multi-agency coordination center at Autzen Stadium as a dress rehearsal for emergencies that could potentially arise during the trials.
"Just like any sporting team, practice is an important part of maintaining and improving our plans," said Krista Dillon, senior planner for the UO's Emergency Management & Continuity. "Participating in this type of exercise provides an opportunity to test our plans and our team to identify opportunities to improve those plans and coordination before a real emergency occurs."
During the UO drills, National Guard members will play the roles of people injured during an incident at the Olympic trials. They will be primarily in the Student Rec Center’s Bonus Room, then will be transported by either ambulance or helicopter.
Two helicopter landings and takeoffs – at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. – will occur at the Howe Extension Field, and will involve both a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter and a smaller LifeFlight helicopter. Three helicopters – two Army Black Hawks and a LifeFlight civilian craft – will make several additional landings and takeoffs at the Riverfront Field from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
Additional helicopter landings and takeoffs are planned for the afternoon of May 2 at Alton Baker Park.
The exercise will likely be heard across much of the UO campus, but is not expected to cause significant issues.
"The university and partner agencies have been working with the National Guard to design the exercise so that disruptions to regularly-scheduled campus activities are limited, and also to communicate broadly with the campus community so that exercise activities do not cause alarm," Dillon said.
UO Emergency Management and Continuity planners are working with instructors who are teaching classes at the Student Rec Center or Esslinger Hall during the nearby helicopter landings. Campus portions of the exercises are expected to be completed by the time a softball double-header begins at Howe Field at 1 p.m., and helicopters should be gone from Riverfront Field in time for club sports activities and intramural games to begin as scheduled at 4 p.m. or later.
Other activities occurring on campus May 2 include mid-term exams, final exams for the UO School of Law and the first day of the ASUO Street Faire.