Every season has its own share of destructive weather possibilities, and government must constantly be aware of these possible threats, the responsibility to be always prepared, and the ability of a region's resources to properly deal with that threat. Preparation for any possible contingency is vital to help ensure that a locality or 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.
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.
The HURREX/Citadel Gale exercise is conducted annually by Commander U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF) and Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC) to provide afloat and shore-based commands an opportunity to exercise hurricane preparedness and installation restoration plans prior to the onset of the hurricane season.
The purpose of this annual exercise is to prepare U.S. naval forces to respond to weather threats to U.S. coastal regions, and to maintain the ability to deploy forces even under the most adverse weather conditions.
Navy District Washington participating in HURREX
Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren and NSF Indian Head - along with all Navy installations in Naval District Washington (NDW) - will participate in HURREX/Citadel Gale 2012, which will be conducted during April 16-27.
The event will include functional and tabletop exercise events designed to train, evaluate and validate Naval Support Activity South Potomac's (NSASP) standard operating procedures and actions during a hurricane. The exercise scenarios will evaluate the ability of NSASP to evacuate, respond and recover from a hurricane.
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. All Navy commands with personnel in these regions, ashore and afloat, in port and underway, will participate, to include reviewing and exercising heavy weather instructions and procedures and accounting for Sailors and Navy families in the affected regions through the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS).
The Navy will focus on training under five "conditions of readiness" that start 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.
"From past experience, we know the damage that [natural disasters] can cause," said Timothy Stoessel with NDW's training and readiness directorate. "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 2,000 and caused $108 billion worth of damage, the costliest in American history.
Ensuring Sailors and families are safe
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's operations directorate.
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," said Stoessel.
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 www.public.navy.mil/navsafecen/Documents/media/safetips/f-m/hurricane.doc.
More information on Navy Family Emergency Preparedness can also be found at www.cnic.navy.mil/ CNIC_HQ_Site/WhatWeDo/FamilyLine/FamilyPreparedness/index.htm.
Gary Wagner, NSASP Public Affairs Officer, contributed to this article.