NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
Each year commands located on the East and Gulf Coasts conduct natural disaster preparedness exercises in order to maintain the ability to respond and deploy forces even under one of the most severe weather conditions: hurricanes.
Hurricane Exercise/Citadel Gale, or HURREX/CG, is conducted mid-spring in preparation for the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which ranges from Jun. 1 to Nov. 30. The exercise is focused on hurricane preparation, recovery, consequence management and personnel account procedures training for those afloat and shore-based. In addition, it focuses on installation response and recovery, and Navy family support.
HURREX/CG will take place May 11-15 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) following National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The exercise will include a simulated storm system that develops and intensifies, threatening the East Coast. NNSY must follow emergency management guidelines and maintain Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness (TCCOR) as though in a real event, ensuring the shipyard is ready to endure any coming storm.
“The best defense against destructive weather is to always be in a posture that supports the ability to quickly transition through the TCCORS during hurricane season, without putting a lot of time and effort into routine housekeeping items,” said Emergency Management Officer Steve Murley. “For example, due to the amount of work that we do it is easy to allow a stack of pallets to accumulate in an area, dumpsters to overflow, allowing trips hazards to accumulate, not securing loads because it’s only a 10-minute drive. A couple of weeks ago, we had a thunderstorm squall line with straight-line winds of 80 miles per hour move through the shipyard. Those are hurricane force winds for a short duration, which caused one of our folks to be injured and have to go to medical. Back in May 2011 there was another wind event that tragically one of our employees lost their life during the event. These exercises help us prepare for the worst case scenario and do our part to keep ourselves, our families, and coworkers safe.”
This year’s exercise also includes added challenges with operating in a COVID-19 environment.
“Some of our objectives this year are to adjust how we respond in a COVID-19 environment. As the shipyard continues to minimize the spread while maximizing the mission, we have many who are not at the shipyard and unable to assist in these efforts. However, with proper social distancing in place, including wearing proper PPE including face masks, and taking the steps needed to ensure the safety of those involved, we will persevere,” said Murley. “As in all previous years, we will establish what’s known as a ‘Battle Rhythm’ - a series of planning, briefing and status meetings to ensure that our destructive weather checklist are exercised. Additionally we will address watch bills to include red and green teams who will respond during the event. We in Emergency Management, as well as the Code 1130 and Code 105.6 planning teams, are synchronizing our responses and working together to minimize the gaps and seams. There will be AtHoc alerts setting TCCOR with amplifying information on our social medial pages so that everyone part of America’s Shipyard is aware of what’s going on and what steps are being taken.”
Murley and his team are asking all shipyard employees to be prepared for the coming exercise, taking the steps needed to act as if it were a real event.
“One thing that shipyarders could do is ensure they are registered for the Wide Area Alert Network (WAAN) and AtHoc,” said Murley. “Through this notification service, they will be able to stay informed with the latest information about base closures, weather events, and more as they develop. These notifications can be set up to send via email, text message and/or phone call. It enables the employee to receive critical information and updates even when they are not at work.”
The WAAN system is accessible to all NMCI users at the shipyard via the purple globe icon in the bottom right corner of the desktop. Users can right click the globe and click “Access Self Service” to add their contact information and devices. For those without regular computer access, they can contact NSA-NNSY-EOC.FCT@navy.mil.
“Another service for personnel to be familiar with is the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS),” said Murley. “The system is a method for the Navy to account, assess, manage, and monitor the recovery process for personnel and their families affected during an event. Personnel can account for their status and update their contact/location information for their chain of command to have available. If someone is evacuating during the storm or needs to be accounted for, they can provide that report via NFAAS so we know where they are and if they’re ok.”
The system can be accessed at https://navyfamily.navy.mil/. In addition, there is an app readily available for Apple and Android users – providing the most up-to-date service including information on emergency preparedness, local weather and other local emergency notifications and alerts, and providing the ability to update information and account for location. Other features include managing personal contacts, providing checklists to prepare for emergencies, and using global positioning system (GSP) to get turn-by-turn directions to the closest Navy installation.
All shipyard employees should also be aware of what zone they live in. “’Know Your Zone’ is a program developed by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management,” said Murley. “Through data gathered through research, areas throughout Coastal Virginia are separated into zones tiered to represent where is most vulnerable during hurricanes or other major weather events. The zones are designated A through D and in the case of an evacuation or shelter at home order, zones will be used to determine who is affected.” Personnel can locate their zone via www.vaemergency.gov/hurricane-evacuation-zone-lookup/.
Murley wants everyone to be prepared at home as well, and to help prepare their families should an event occur. “Everyone should have a plan in place with their family in case of an emergency. Whether it be for sheltering in place or evacuation, they should be able to identify how they will receive emergency alerts and warning, what their shelter plan is, what their evacuation routes are, who to contact, and what specific needs need to be addressed in their household. For example, is there any medical or dietary needs of their family members should they need to evacuate? Is there a plan in place for pets or service animals? It’s important to prepare and tailor your plan to your specific needs. Plus, in these times of COVID-19, the CDC recommends if you are needing to go to a public shelter during an event, bring at least two cloth face coverings per person and, if possible, hand sanitizer. You can learn more at https://www.ready.gov/plan.”
He continued, “Another good practice is to have an emergency kit prepared with food, water, and supplies to wait out a storm. Items can include cash, medications, diapers, matches, flashlights, and more. For more information and to print out a checklist of recommended items, visit https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/ready_emergency-supply-kit-checklist.pdf.”
Murley added, “It’s important to be prepared long before an event occurs. Now’s the time to sign up for WAAN, to update your NFAAS, and to know your zone. Being prepared for a hurricane or other major weather event will help ensure you and your family are safe through the storm.”
For more information regarding hurricane preparedness and the upcoming season, please visit www.ready.gov, www.readyhamptonroads.org, www.readyvirginia.gov, www.ready.navy.mil, www.militaryonesource.mil, https://www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps, and https://www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness.