NAVAL DISTRICT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Every season has its own share of destructive weather possibilities, and Naval District Washington (NDW) must constantly be aware of these possible threats, the responsibility to always be prepared, and the ability of the region's resources to properly deal with that threat.
Although one often hopes for the best, the Navy is a military organization, and one does not always fight battles in the best conditions. Therefore, preparation for any possible contingency is vital for NDW so the region can endure and recover from adverse weather conditions.
As the weather changes, the potential for disruption or disaster due to destructive weather still remains ever present. Winter provides its own challenges with the potential for snow and ice damage and loss of productivity, but recent years have provided far too many examples of the destructive power of the hurricane season, which runs roughly from June to November.
"From past experience, we know the damage that [natural disasters] can cause," said Timothy Stoessel with Training and Readiness (N7). "All you have to do is look at the flood of the Naval Academy [during Hurricane Isabel in 2003] to realize the kind of damage 'All-Hazards' can inflict".
Over the last two centuries, tropical cyclones have claimed the lives of approximately 1.9 million people. The United States has had its own costly reminders of the strength of hurricanes, notably in 2005 with the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina, which killed nearly two-thousand and caused 108 billion dollars worth of damage, the costliest in American history.
NDW, and the Navy as a whole, considers the safety of its Sailors and their families to be the highest possible priority, especially during violent weather. Therefore, there is a large emphasis in all Navy commands on security and accountability before, during, and after destructive weather. The Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS) is a key part of this accountability. The Navy uses the NFAAS to account for Sailors and Navy families, as well as to identify disaster-related needs of Navy families. Sailors and their families should ensure their information is up to date in NFAAS. (NFAAS Website https://navyfamily.navy.mil)
"Prudent steps taken by all hands to be prepared for destructive weather phenomena that our Region experiences greatly minimizes mission degradation and the possibility of loss of life and damage to government and personal property," said Thompson Gerke, with NDW Operations (N3).
The Navy has its own way of preparing for the possibility of the massive power of tropical cyclones: a yearly exercise called HURREX/Citadel Gale. This year, HURREX 12 will run from April 16 to 27. All commands participate in the exercise, as everyone is potentially affected by destructive weather..
"HURREX/Citadel Gale is the Navy's exercise to prepare for the annual hurricane season," Stoessel said. "We have an All-Hazards plan which includes weather, and we use this exercise to get ready prior to June."
HURREX/Citadel Gale 12 will involve two simulated storm systems developing and intensifying to hurricane strength, threatening the Caribbean Islands, East Coast and Gulf Coast regions. The Navy will focus on training under five "conditions of readiness" that start at four days before a storm hits and progresses all the way up to 12 hours prior.
Although the exercise does not involve any real movement of ships or aircraft, the exercise is designed to be as real as possible. Commander, Task Force 20 will simulate a sortie, and Sailors ashore and afloat, in port or underway will review their heavy weather instructions and procedures.
According to Stoessel, even though the training and testing procedure is an annual fixture, there is always more to gain from the repetition of exercises like HURREX/Citadel Gale.
"There are always lessons learned every year, especially on how to communicate better with commands and the local community," Stoessel said.
With proper preparation and training, the dangers of destructive weather can be mitigated, and this year is no different. It is everyone's responsibility to ensure the safety of equipment, and more importantly, Sailors and their families.
The Naval Safety Center has information on preparing for destructive weather which can be found at http://www.public.navy.mil/ navsafecen/Documents/media/safetips/f-m/hurricane.doc
More information on Navy Family Emergency Preparedness can also be found at http://www.cnic.navy.mil/CNIC_HQ_Site/WhatWeDo/FamilyLine/FamilyPreparedness/index.htm.