The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that preparedness is key when dealing with any type of unexpected emergency, and like it or not, another potential emergency situation is looming just around the corner: the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
The 2019 hurricane season produced 18 named storms, including six hurricanes of which three — Dorian, Humberto and Lorenzo — were in the “major” category, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. It marked the fourth consecutive above-normal Atlantic season, and top hurricane forecasters from Colorado State University are predicting major activity again in 2020.
With the season’s onset approaching, the Navy is wrapping up HURREX/Citadel Gale 2020, its annual hurricane preparedness/disaster response and recovery exercise, conducted by Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Commander, Naval Installations Command.
“This year’s exercise involved a simulated storm that developed and intensified to hurricane strength striking the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Atlantic Coast,” explained NAS Patuxent River’s Supervisory Emergency Management Specialist Pat Paulsen. “The training assessed Tropical Conditions of Readiness (TCORR), sortie, aircraft evacuation, personnel accountability, personnel evacuation, mission essential personnel, disaster preparedness, and response and recovery procedures.”
Impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, the usual two-week exercise was condensed to one week as participants dealt with the resulting challenges.
“We were unable to do full scale exercises with Emergency Operations Center activation due to social/physical distancing protocols,” noted Chief Hull Maintenance Technician James Rossetto, Emergency Ops Center manager. “We were forced to do virtual tabletop exercises via Microsoft Teams and Defense Collaboration Sites (DCS). Those of us who were in contact with others were forced to wear face masks and maintain six feet of distance.”
While HURREX/Citadel Gale helps to determine if there are any areas where the region or the installation can improve their ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, it is encouraged that personnel take charge of their own advanced preparation and planning.
“It is important that all personnel — Sailors and civilians — keep their personal information current in the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFASS),” Paulsen said. “It’s an essential resource for tracking Navy personnel and family members during crisis or natural disasters. Also, there are different resources available to our Navy families to help them be prepared in the event of a disaster and we recommend they take the time to learn about them before an event occurs.”