The Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers (NEPLO) program mobilized 10 Navy Reserve Sailors from Navy Region Naval District Washington and Navy Region Mid-Atlantic units, Jan. 17-24, in support of the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as 46th president of the United States.
The NEPLOs served as liaisons providing inauguration information and situational awareness to federal, state, and local emergency management agencies and U.S. Army North’s Defense Coordinating Element for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III — each in support of Joint Task Force-National Capital Region.
“I believe this inauguration was the most unique in history because of both the high level of security and the lack of attendees, due to the pandemic,” said Capt. Andrew Shank, commanding officer of the NEPLO Naval District Washington unit.
The NEPLO program consists entirely of Navy Reserve Sailors professionally trained in emergency management. NEPLOs provide Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) during hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, pandemics — and National Special Security Events (NSSE), such as the State of the Union Address, state funerals or presidential inaugurations.
“FEMA was the lead federal agency crisis management and provided support to JTF-NCR,” Shank said. “FEMA was basically on standby, in case an event occurred, with the personnel necessary to open a Joint Field Office to start processing requests for federal assistance.”
NEPLOs contributed to the readiness of the JTF-NCR Joint Operations Center; Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia; Regional Response Coordination Center FEMA Region III; National Guard Headquarters in Pennsylvania and Virginia; and the District of Columbia Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency.
While a few NEPLOs were on site at the Virginia EOC and National Guard headquarters, the rest of the team used various virtual online tools to keep federal, state and local partners informed in order to maintain social distancing requirements.
“The online collaboration tools were key to maintaining situational awareness and essential to the JTF-NCR JOC in monitoring and managing inauguration activities,” Shank said.