SAN ANTONIO, Texas — U.S. Army North hosted more than 200 military and civilian partners who gathered both in person and virtually for a Hurricane Rehearsal of Concept Drill at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, June 3.
The primary purpose of the rehearsal was to prepare participants to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the lead federal agency for hurricane response — during the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which began June 1. In addition to response and recovery-focused discussions, participants also talked about national resiliency in support of the National Response Framework.
“This ROC drill helps us synchronize our whole-of-government effort for an all-hazards response, whether it is a response to a natural disaster, pandemic, man-made hazard, terrorist attack or cyberattack.” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, ARNORTH commander. “Having everyone here to synchronize and integrate is extremely important for us to be ready to fulfill our requirements as an integrated, interagency task force to meet the National Preparedness Goal.”
The National Preparedness Goal defines what it means for the whole community to be prepared for all types of disasters and emergencies. According to FEMA, the goal itself is: “A secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.”
The ROC Drill allowed military participants from U.S. Northern Command, the National Guard Bureau, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Army Forces Command, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others from across the joint force, to rehearse alongside civilian partner show to respond to a hurricane should military support be requested by FEMA and approved by the Secretary of Defense.
U.S. Army North, the Army service component command of USNORTHCOM, organized the Hurricane ROC Drill as part of its defense support of civil authorities’ mission, one of the command’s three missions, but not the most important.
“Our primary mission remains homeland defense,” said Richardson, who challenged participants to think through the complex challenges in responding simultaneously to a homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities mission, and across all domains.
Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, who led USNORTHCOM and the North American Aerospace Defense Command from May 2016 to May 2018, was a virtual guest speaker during the event.
During her remarks, she said last year’s hurricane season was interesting, but this year’s will be compelling.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predicts a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms, with winds of 39 mph or higher in 2021. Of these storms, six to 10 could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher. Three to five of these hurricanes could be category 3, 4 or 5; potentially bringing catastrophic damage with winds of 111 mph or higher.
“Every year and every hurricane is different,” said Robinson.
Robinson, who oversaw military support to FEMA during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017, described ARNORTH’s ROC Drill scenario as perfect, emphasizing the rehearsal will allow interagency partners to get “left of launch,” or in this case, “left of a hurricane.”
The ARNORTH ROC Drill focused on two category 4 and 5 hurricane scenarios with multiple landfalls and effects in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Also discussed during the rehearsal was how to overcome challenges in a post-pandemic/COVID-19 environment, like a nationwide shortage of truck drivers and a lack of rental cars and hotel rooms as restrictions ease and Americans begin to travel.
“These are unprecedented times,” said Mr. Damon Penn, FEMA Office of Response and Recovery response directorate assistant administrator, who attended the rehearsal in person. “We have to be as proactive as we can, but we have to do things smartly.”