By Tonya K. Townsell, Presidio of Monterey Public AffairsMarch 16, 2011
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - The Presidio of Monterey is prepared to respond in the event another disaster, like the March 11 tsunami, hits California's central coast, said installation officials.
Presidio staff members train throughout the year on responding to natural events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and winter storms, as well as manmade events such as those related to terrorism, said Shawn Marshall, POM Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
"We train year-round to speak the same language, and work together using the same systems and plans as local cities and counties so we can support each other effectively during disasters," said Marshall explaining the importance of mutual aid in the event of a disaster.
In fact, even before the March 11 tsunami, the Presidio had scheduled a tabletop exercise for later this spring with Monterey County, the City of Monterey and the Naval Postgraduate School to "ensure we could support each other in a tsunami event," Marshall said.
"Military installations can't be islands that rely only on their own resources during a disaster. They need mutual aid, just as local communities need mutual aid during a major disaster," Marshall said, adding that "We participate in all earthquake, tsunami and winter-storm working committees the county (Monterey) puts on."
Large disasters that happened in the United States, such as Hurricane Katrina, taught states and the Department of Defense the need for everyone to "speak" the same language and be able to support each other through a single incident-management system, said Marshall. That system is the National Incident Management System, known as NIMS.
In response to the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan, DPTMS staff was monitoring the situation and stood up the Presidio's Istallation Operations Center about 6:15 a.m. with partial staffing, said Mike Stuebinger, POM DPTMS, explaining the staff then confirmed communications' capabilities and continued monitoring the event.
The complement of personnel, including POM Garrison Commander Col. Darcy A. Brewer, kept watch as the tsunami approached the West Coast.
The National Weather Service issued notices earlier saying a tsunami had been generated. Additionally, some Monterey-area residents received warning calls from Alert Monterey County, a reverse-911 type system.
The initial surge's estimated arrival for the bay area was around 7:40 a.m., with around 3-foot waves. At about 6:30 a.m. the Presidio of Monterey updated its Facebook page with a notice about the event.
Finally, about 8 a.m., newscasters confirmed the first swells of the tsunami had arrived.
The Presidio followed this at about 8:30 a.m. with an update posted to its Facebook site as well as a message pushed to all POM computers from the garrison commander. In the message Brewer said, "We are experiencing no impact to operations at the Presidio or Ord Military Community. It is a normal work day."
While the surges in Monterey were mild - estimated at less than 3.5 feet - compared to Japan's damage, the state did not come out unscathed, as ports along the California coast weathered damage - Santa Cruz and Crescent City were hit hardest. Preliminary estimates put the damage in California in the $40-50 million range.
Finally, shortly after 1 p.m., Stuebinger said, the Presidio's Installation Operations Center shut down, but not before demonstrating that POM was prepared.
"We have a system in place, and it works," said Marshall, stressing that another lesson from the event he wants to share is that military community members who live and work in the tsunami inundation zone need to know they actually are in that zone; and they need to know what to do when they receive notification of a possible tsunami.