JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Region Southeast (CNRSE) Family Readiness Program hosted phase two of an Emergency Family Assistance Center (EFAC) exercise at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville July 17.
The training was an installment of a three-phase exercise designed to test the region's ability to establish and sustain EFAC operations in the days and weeks following the landfall of a hurricane.
Phase I, conducted on May 30, involved more than 30 Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) representatives from NAS Jacksonville, Naval Station (NS) Mayport and Naval Submarine Base (NSB) Kings Bay, as well as installation and training officers and emergency management personnel from all three bases. Phase II incorporated a variety of additional base organizations, such as the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Navy Legal Service Office, Navy Gateway Inns and Suites, base housing and many others.
"This training is vital because it's not a matter of if one of our installations will be affected by a hurricane, it's a matter of when," said Commander, Navy Region Southeast Rear Adm. John C. Scorby Jr. "Our ability to bring together multiple organizations and people to work as a cohesive unit is crucial to our recovery efforts in this kind of scenario, and I think training like this has a huge impact on our ability to respond when the real thing does happen."
The EFAC exercise is essentially a continuation of the region's HURREX 2013, which tested the region's hurricane preparedness through a scenario involving multiple simulated storms that made landfall near installations throughout the Southeast Region. While HURREX focused on pre-landfall preparations, the EFAC exercise was designed to focus on the recovery phase of disaster response.
In this scenario, NS Mayport and NSB Kings Bay residents were evacuated prior to landfall and each base suffered extensive flooding damage as the simulated storm passed. FFSC personnel from all three participating bases worked with emergency management, training personnel and other installation departments to establish an EFAC on board NAS Jacksonville.
"Phase II of this exercise had a lot more moving pieces due to the fact that we brought in a variety of additional agencies to participate," said Carol Lucius, CNRSE Family Readiness Program work and family life coordinator. "To incorporate all these different people into this exercise is invaluable because we will be working together in the event of a real disaster and establishing roles, responsibilities and relationships is crucial."
After a real disaster, the EFAC would function as a hub for FFSC case workers and emergency response personnel to provide a wide range of support services for affected family members. According to Lucius, much of that support is managed through the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS).
"After a disaster, people can go into the 'Needs Assessment' portion of NFAAS and specify what they need, then our case managers can go in and see what those needs are. We will then call them back and get them the appropriate resources," she said.
Although NFAAS is one of the primary methods for EFAC personnel to assess needs after a disaster, people can also come directly to the EFAC for assistance, Lucius added.
"Circumstances can change very quickly in the days and weeks following a hurricane, so our recovery efforts need to be flexible and our services have to be adjusted accordingly," Lucius said. "It's important for us to identify exactly who we need to have in the EFAC based on what peoples' needs are. The EFAC is not staffed with only FFSC personnel, but there are a lot of other organizations involved, such as chaplains, medical, legal, housing and a long list of others. Part of this exercise is to establish a clearer picture of what resources we are likely to need in the EFAC at different times in the recovery process."
After an actual hurricane, EFAC personnel would also coordinate with a number of civilian agencies and local officials in order to get people the help they need. Lucius said most people who seek help are in need of food, shelter, clothes or some other physical need, which makes it important to conduct this kind of exercise in order to be better prepared for recovery efforts when a real-world scenario occurs.
"The nature of an emergency or crisis event is that of unpredictability," she said. "However, even though things will inevitably happen that we don't necessarily expect, we still need to have a plan in place so that our people are confident in themselves, confident in their leadership and confident in the plan."
Lucius said training like this is essential for preparing emergency management and FFSC personnel for an actual event, but it is equally as important for family members and dependents to know what to do in the event of an emergency.
"They really need to know about NFAAS. They need to know that it is essential for them to have their personal contact information updated in NFAAS so that when a disaster strikes, they can be contacted and they know how to contact somebody for help," she said.
While phase II of the exercise included about 30 more participants than phase I, phase III of the exercise will expand even further and will include a number of civilian agencies and organizations, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Salvation Army and others.
Sailors, dependents and government civilians can log into NFAAS at https://navyfamily.navy.mil where they can update their contact information, report their status or submit a needs assessment.
For more information about hurricane readiness or NFAAC, contact your local FFSC.
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For more news from Commander, Navy Region Southeast, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrse/.