Federal, Civilian Agencies Prepare for 'Very Active' Hurricane Season
June 5, 2007
By Don Wagner
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 5, 2007) - In a scenario in one of the largest hurricane-preparedness exercises in America, "Hurricane Yvettee," with wind gusts up to 130 mph and 9-to-12-foot wave surges, slammed the nation's northeast coast.
The Category-3 hurricane had New England residents and emergency responders braced for the worst. Federal and state officials scrambled to the Cranston Street Armory in Providence, R.I., to prepare for the hurricane and manage recovery efforts in its aftermath.
Yvette was part of Exercise Ardent Sentry-Northern Edge '07, which was conducted across the country earlier this year. The exercise - which involved the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the governors of Rhode Island and New York - was held in preparation for what National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials predict will be a "very active" 2007 Atlantic hurricane season that could produce up to 16 named storms between June 1 and Nov. 30.
U.S. Northern Command hosted the hurricane-preparedness portion of training portion of AS-NE '07, which is the largest and most complex exercise yet undertaken by U.S. Army, North, a NORTHCOM major command at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
"Army North works daily with federal and local governments to prepare for defense support to civil authorities," said Col. Frank Kosich, ARNORTH's defense coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's, Region I. "The training offers us the chance to exercise our plans with federal, state and local agencies."
The exercise tested and solidified the working relationships among FEMA, the North American Aerospace Defense Command and all branches of the DOD, the Coast Guard, and many other emergency-response organizations.
Officials spent a year planning the exercise, which was intended to test participating agencies' abilities to respond both to the hurricane scenario and to "terrorist attacks" in the Midwest and Alaska.
During the exercise, Col. Kosich teamed with Mr. James Russo, FEMA's federal coordinating officer at the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency in Cranston.
"We purposely built a sense of urgency into the exercise to bring out the best in the participants," said Mr. Russo. "With training, we will get better and better."
Lt. Col. Paul Condon, an ARNORTH '07 planner, said the exercise allowed all the players to build stronger relationships. The goal was to stress all participants in order to maximize the training benefit, he added.
Participants in Rhode Island repeatedly commented on the value of the training and coordination that came out of their joint efforts, but they also looked forward to evaluations that would follow.
"We want to learn how to do a better job of anticipating needs and provide more timely responses," said Lt. Col. Joe Stawick, an operations officer for the exercise.
"The degree of cooperation between state and federal agencies couldn't have been better," said Col. Kosich, in an early analysis of the New England exercise. "Everyone was focused on helping citizens in need. We learned that we need to adapt to circumstances quickly, so that we get the right resources to the right place at the right time.
"It's also critical to manage the information we have and get the right information to decision makers, so they can make informed decisions in a timely manner," he said.
(Don Wagner writes for "Soldiers" magazine.)