Hurricane season kicked off June 1st and to prepare for it, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District participated in SC Emergency Management Division’s (SCEMD) full-scale exercise that was held June 5th-6th at the SCEMD’s headquarters. This exercise was designed to practice responses required after a hurricane makes landfall.
Charleston District personnel participated in the exercise by serving as Local Government Liaisons (LGLs) which assisted in the facilitation of USACE mission execution through improved communications between SCEMD and local government agencies. Under the National Response Framework, USACE is assigned as the coordinator for the Emergency Support Function #3, public works and engineering, and during disasters is the primary agency for response activities, such as ice, water and temporary power. FEMA is the primary agency for ESF #3 recovery activities and can assign USACE to assist in recovery missions such as debris management and temporary housing.
The SCEMD hurricane exercise consisted of initial damage assessments, re-entry operations for responders and residents, and the initial disaster response and recovery efforts. Charleston District personnel, Les Parker, Rusty Shelton, and Charlie Crosby, served as LGLs where they worked at the SC Emergency Operations Center with the SCEMD and the SC Army National Guard during the exercise.
“Our task for the day was to ensure that in case of a real emergency, recovery from any natural disaster would be completed as quickly as possible and that the damage to property, as well as loss of life, would be minimal,” said Shelton. “We had the opportunity to utilize our combined talents from within the Corps of Engineers to train and provide assistance to other local and state agencies. We also practiced mutual coordination with other ESF teams.”
David Warren, project manager, and Mak Araghi, budget officer, served as LGLs in the Berkeley and Dorchester County Emergency Operations Centers.
“We went out in the field with a SC Department of Transportation engineer to show him all the various known road flooding areas that become impassable in major rain events. It was a great experience to get to know the team I would be working with in the event a natural disaster occurs,” said Warren. “The Berkeley County team was well prepared and true professionals.”
During this time, Matt Foss, chief, survey section, was with the survey vessel Evans as it was being transported from the water to the pedestal where it would rest at Deytens Shipyard in the event of a hurricane.
Participating in these full-scale exercises keeps the Corps engaged with local and state agencies and helps everyone be prepared in the event of an emergency.
On a national level, several District ice mission team members attended the Evergreen Earthquake exercise in Tacoma, WA, and Albuquerque, NM. Participating in this exercise allowed team members to gain firsthand experience of how the ice mission is executed. The Charleston District is prepared to provide three million pounds of ice within 24 hours of being called upon to any U.S. state or territory in need. The ice delivery is crucial to aiding in medical issues like keeping medication cool.
“The exercise allowed for us to practice the execution of the ice mission with the contractors, FEMA and the state,” said Tracy Sanders, a facilitator at the exercise. “It gave everyone a good sense of what to expect in the event of a real disaster.”
Charleston District stands prepared in the event of a disaster, but is hopeful for an uneventful hurricane season.