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By Donna Cipolloni

Tester staff writer

With hurricane season just around the corner, Naval Air Station Patuxent River is currently conducting HURREX, an annual series of exercises designed to test the station’s weather emergency management preparedness and response.

This year’s Naval District Washington HURREX-14 scenario, underway May 5-16, involves a major storm moving its way up the east coast and testing all NDW installations’ operational forces and the readiness of the Navy family. Major events scheduled include an emergency shelter opening at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling; a hazardous materials spill in Naval Support Activity (NSA) Washington; the establishment of Emergency Family Assistance Centers at NSA South Potomac and NSA Bethesda; and a mass casualty event at Pax River.

“Locally, we are incorporating a plausible event that might take place during a hurricane,” said Craig Buist, program director for training and readiness at Pax River. “This year, we’re simulating a mass casualty building collapse.”

Buist explained that the event will not only test our own fire and emergency services personnel, but also the interoperability between different agencies on and off base.

“Our fire and emergency personnel have the medics and technical rescue capabilities for that type of event, and they can triage and treat victims to a certain degree based on their level of injury,” he said, “but we have limited transport capabilities, which will force us to involve our community partners and engage our mutual aid agreements.”

Beyond that, the building collapse also forces personnel here to interact with Naval Facilities Command and Public Works to assess whether there is structural damage and determine what has to be done to ensure safety, Buist said. And, further down the road, it must be decided if any part of the building could still be used or would it be condemned; what are the options for relocating the people who work there and how would that process be carried out.

Dealing with the emergency situation at hand is leadership’s top priority during any major event but Buist wants to remind people that the next most important concern is personnel accountability. He recommends all personnel register on NFAAS - the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System, an event-based system used by the Navy following a disaster or emergency to help determine how and where Navy family members are.

And don’t forget the home front. “We can be prepared at Pax, but we also have families to protect at home,” Buist said. “Every family should be prepared for an eventuality like this. Be informed. Make a plan. Build a kit. The people who think this will never happen to them are the ones you see on the evening news being rescued by boat.”

Shawn Miller, NDW Public Affairs, assisted with the preparation of this article.