The Navywide HURREX/Citadel Gale 2012 exercise is coming to a close the end of this week and has provided Naval District Washington (NDW) an excellent opportunity to test its destructive weather preparation and response procedures.
HURREX is the culmination of the Navy's annual battery of tests to ensure that Sailors and emergency managers are prepared for destructive weather scenarios. Although there is some attention paid to winter storms, the hurricane season, which lasts from June through November, is of particular concern to Navy commands, and for good reason.
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 storm in American history.
"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".
HURREX/Citadel Gale is conducted with a particular focus on Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness (COR). The readiness conditions help frame the preparation effort for a hurricane in terms of times until the threat presents itself. There are five CORs, starting with COR V, which states that destructive winds (of 50 knots or greater) are possible within four days (96 hours). The CORs then descend from IV at 72 hours, III at 48 hours, II at 24 hours, to finally COR I when possibly damaging winds are going to be present within 12 hours.
HURREX is an annual exercise which consists of all Navy commands in some way preparing for a simulated storm system to pass through NDW's Area of Operations (AO), threatening NDW installations, as well as the Caribbean Islands, East Coast and Gulf Coast regions. This year's particular storm system, named "Zeus", was a tropical storm that hit NDW Tuesday morning.
Some of the simulated damages that Regional Operations Center (ROC) personnel had to respond to was a fire at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda, massive flooding at Naval Support Activity Washington's (NSAW) Naval Support Facility Carderock and the Washington Navy Yard, and a sewage overflow leak at NSAW. NSA Annapolis was also heavily impacted in the scenario, requiring the EOC responders to muster buses and Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to assist in evacuation of Midshipmen from the Naval Academy. A casualty was simulated as well, as a body was discovered near the Display Ship Barry (DD 933) prompting staff to contact Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS).
Fleet and Family Readiness (FFR), played a large role in coordinating response to the damages, utilizing the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS). According to Kelly Kurisko with FFR, updating data in NFAAS is a semi-annual requirement for all Sailors, and should be done as often as possible.
"Communication with Navy families is critical," said Kurisko. "Update information in NFAAS and keep battle books up to date."
With the exercise nearing completion, one might wonder what benefits the average Sailor might see from an operation such as HURREX. After all, the odds are pretty low of a hurricane dramatically affecting NDW's AO. According to Thompson Gerke with NDW Operations, however, even a slim chance is enough to ensure preparation in a Navy that is ready for anything.
"For the average Sailor, individual and family emergency preparedness for destructive weather is arguably the principal benefit to be gained from the annual HURREX exercise," said Gerke. "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."
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 www.cnic.navy.mil/CNIC_HQ_ Site/WhatWeDo/FamilyLine/FamilyPreparedness/index.htm.
Information on how to form an emergency kit and make other preparations for hurricanes can be found at www.ready.gov /hurricanes.