The Department of Defense announced today that it is currently providing support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) efforts to prepare for Hurricane Irene’s expected landfall on the U.S. mainland. At this time, the support includes, but is not limited to: air and ground transportation experts and defense coordinating officers and elements who serve as DoD representatives to state, local and other federal agencies. These experts coordinate DoD resources in support of FEMA.
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta directed U.S. Northern Command to provide support as identified by FEMA in light of the projected path of the storm. Fort Bragg, N.C.; Joint Base McGuire - Dix - Lakehurst, N.J.; and Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., have all been designated as FEMA Incident Support Bases (ISB). As such, we have already prepositioned 225 non-DoD trucks loaded with equipment, food, water, and generators at Bragg. Supplies and equipment are in the process of being moved to the other ISBs now.
Additionally, 18 DoD helicopters are deploying to the Northeastern United States to be ready to provide critical life saving and life sustaining support should it be needed. These aircraft are being pre-positioned close enough to render swift assistance, but out of the way of the Irene’s path. Eight helicopters are deploying from Fort Stewart, Ga., to Fort Drum, N.Y. An additional ten helicopters are afloat on the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship out of Norfolk, Va. As with many ships in the path of the storm, the USS Wasp has moved out to sea and out of Irene’s way. It will follow in behind the storm and be ready to render assistance as required.
At this time, approximately 101,000 National Guard members are available to the governors of the East Coast states, territories and the District of Columbia if needed. This includes personnel in the following: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Panetta said, “As Americans located up and down the East Coast make preparations for Hurricane Irene’s landfall, it is important to note that the men and women of the Defense Department are working closely with FEMA as part of the larger government preparations and response to Hurricane Irene.”
Additionally, the department has memorandums of agreement in place with numerous states that promote a unity of effort by allowing swift designation of a dual-status commander, when and where it may be needed. This dual-status commander arrangement, which, at the request and on behalf of a governor, will command state National Guard forces and, on behalf of the President and the secretary of defense, will command federal military forces, ensures all military forces will be working together in a coordinated manner.
Hurricane Irene struck the island of Puerto Rico on Sunday. As a result, 348 Puerto Rico National Guard members were activated to support route/debris clearance, equipment transportation, communications support, urban search and rescue, and public safety/security support.
The secretary also encouraged all the members of the DoD family who live in the storm’s projected path to ensure that they are prepared for all contingencies. “I can’t say it strongly enough. Military and civilian members of the department must ensure that they are prepared for Hurricane Irene. Additionally, they need to stay in communication with their commands, organizations or military services after the storm passes. Accountability of personnel is extremely important.”
One of the best ways people can prepare for an event like this is to use the checklists provided by FEMA at the http://www.ready.gov website.