PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- The 2016 North Atlantic hurricane season spawned 15 named storms - those that reached tropical storm strength or greater - and of those storms, seven were hurricanes and three were major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
With the onset of the Atlantic hurricane season fast approaching, the Navy is currently conducting HURREX/Citadel Gale 2017, its annual hurricane exercise designed to prepare the Navy to respond to weather threats in coastal regions and maintain the ability to deploy forces, even under the most adverse weather conditions.
"All Navy commands with personnel in Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, Naval District Washington and Navy Region Southeast are participating," noted Chris Beyer, manager of the NAS Patuxent River Emergency Management Operations Center. "U.S. Fleet Forces initiated the exercise and directed Commander, Naval Installations Command to participate, thus pushing it out to NDW and down to individual installations such as Pax River."
Beyer explained the exercise evaluates the installation's capability to prepare, mitigate, plan, respond, and recover from a hurricane or similar incident causing life/safety concerns and disruption to infrastructure.
"The first week of the exercise incorporates information sharing and preparations for a hurricane potentially impacting Pax River," he said. "The second week incorporates the response and recovery from the hurricane making landfall here."
This year's HURREX scenario involves two simulated tropical cyclones that developed and intensified to hurricane strength, threatening the East Coast of the United States, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean coastal regions.
"The hurricane will hit the region, causing massive damage to infrastructure - buildings collapsing, power outages, downed trees, traffic accidents and flooding," Beyer said. "I can't comment on specific incidents planned that impact Pax or other installations because it might provide exercise participants with information they would otherwise not know during an actual incident."
Impact to personnel at Pax River may include receiving messages regarding incidents or noticing first responders at various locations during the exercise.
"There's a functional drill scheduled the afternoon of May 15 involving the NEX gas station, so personnel should be alert for changes in traffic patterns in that area," Beyer said. "Also, if personnel receive direction to report their status through NFASS (Navy Accountability and Assessment System), they must comply."
NFASS is an essential resource to track Navy personnel and family members during crisis or natural disasters, and all service members and personnel with NMCI access are required to register themselves and their family with NGASS for updates to current weather situations and personnel accountability.
Beyer recommends taking personal responsibility before an event ever occurs so that when an emergency does arise, each individual is prepared to deal with the situation.
"Personal preparation and planning increases one's chances to survive and recover from a disaster and allows responders to aid others and restore the community to pre-disaster conditions," he added. "FEMA says individuals should not anticipate assistance from responders for 72 hours after a disaster occurs; therefore, people should be prepared to be self-sufficient for a period of time."
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