Sept. 7, 2011 -- FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- As the Commonwealth of Virginia braced for Hurricane Irene, Fort A.P. Hill became a safe haven for military evacuees.

Fort A.P. Hill prepared barracks for more than 500 students from the Navy Training Support Center Hampton Roads who evacuated to the installation Aug. 26. Following the students' arrival, they lined up for a warm meal prepared by the post Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff at the Dining Facility. The students remained on post until Aug. 29.

During natural disasters such as Hurricane Irene, Fort A.P. Hill becomes a safe haven for military partners through utilization of a joint continuity of operations (COOP) agreement.

For some units, continuing their mission under circumstances like the hurricane is impossible because their mission is location-specific or resource intensive, said Richard White, the post's plans and operations officer, who assumed responsibility of COOP plans in 2010.

"They simply need a safe shelter for their personnel to wait out the event. It's a force protection issue," White said.

Fort A.P. Hill was also prepared to become a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA may need to shelter its personnel from a hurricane and conduct continuous rescue and recovery operations at the same time. A COOP site like Fort A.P. Hill allows them to perform that mission, White said.

The post's Assault Landing Strip and durable roads for transportation of medical supplies and other commodities are just two reasons the post is identified as a FEMA staging area, according to Keith Brewer, Fort A.P. Hill emergency manager and antiterrorism officer.

The last time the post was a staging area for FEMA was in 2005 during Hurricane Isabel. This time, FEMA was prepared to bring six trucks carrying a total of 34 generators to support local governments. However, the plan was called off Aug. 29 and the trucks were rerouted, according to Ryan Hall, FEMA staging area group supervisor.

Fort A.P. Hill is essentially a "good hub point" for FEMA. "The location is ideal. They [Fort A.P. Hill] have the facility that meets all our needs," Hall said. "Everybody is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the community-at large has everything they need.

Brewer agreed.

"This was a worst-case scenario contingency that we were prepared for," Brewer said. "I was really happy with all the efforts."