NORTHCOM Set to 'Help Save Lives, Prevent Loss’ in Hurricane Response
American Forces Press Service
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Aug. 20, 2007 U.S. Northern Command officials are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Guard and the state of Texas on hurricane response preparations.
Hurricane Dean is crossing the Caribbean Sea, packing sustained winds of 150 mph. At 11 a.m. Eastern Time today, the National Weather Service reported the storm was 385 miles east of Belize City, Belize, moving west at 21 mph. while most computer models predict landfall in Belize or Mexico, the possibility exists that the storm could turn toward the Texas coast.
"While we remain fully engaged in defense of the homeland, our collective Department of Defense capabilities and resources will be utilized for significant events such as hurricanes and other natural disaster contingency operations," NORTHCOM Commander Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart said. "We can help save lives, mitigate suffering and prevent property loss."
NORTHCOM continues to respond to requests for Defense Department support in preparation for Hurricane Dean's possible landfall in the United States, officials said.
NORTHCOM has deployed the following personnel to support the federal response:
-- The Region 6 defense coordinating officer and a six-person defense coordinating element deployed to Corpus Christi, Texas, at FEMA's request prior to landfall of Tropical Storm Erin. The coordinating officer and team have moved to Austin, where they are collocated with FEMA and other responding agency assets.
-- The Region 10 defense coordinating officer and element deployed to Baton Rouge, La., at FEMA's request to assist the Region 6 coordinating officer.
-- A joint regional medical planner deployed to Austin to support the Region 6 defense coordinating officer.
-- A 17-person team from Standing Joint Forces Headquarters North deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to Texas. Ten personnel will support the Region 6 defense coordinating officer in Austin; seven personnel will support Army North at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
-- An eight-person joint patient movement team from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., deployed to Austin to help coordinate aeromedical evacuation efforts.
-- A joint interagency air-ground coordination team from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., deployed to Austin at FEMA's request to assist FEMA and the Texas Emergency Operations Center and to help with aeromedical evacuation and search-and-rescue efforts.
-- The Region 2 defense coordinating officer and element deployed to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Aug. 15, where they supported a FEMA advanced emergency response team. Those personnel are redeploying to their home station in New York.
Should active-duty forces be requested to respond for hurricane operations, the regional defense coordinating officers will provide their command and control and also will facilitate requests for any additional Defense Department support through NORTHCOM.
"Local and state officials, in concert with the National Guard, are the first-line responders," Renuart said. "But U.S. NORTHCOM is prepared to respond in support of the needs of the state, and we are anticipating the kinds of capabilities they might require."
NORTHCOM officials are coordinating with FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Guard to ensure full situational awareness and an appropriate response posture to Hurricane Dean, officials said.
"We have created stronger ties with our National Guard and civilian agency partners with mutual understanding, respect, and appreciation of each others' missions, capabilities, and practices," Renuart said.