Realistic Exercise Helps Wilmington District Prepare for Hurricane Season

Published May 4, 2012

WILMINGTON, N.C.—  “Our objective was to create a scenario that pushed us to our limit.”

   So said Wilmington District Chief of Readiness and Contingency Operations Ron Stirrat describing a Category 3, slow-moving hurricane that just followed another hurricane similar to events that happened in 1996 when Hurricane Fran followed Hurricane Bertha.  The exercise was designed to give Wilmington District responders realistic expectations to prepare for this year’s hurricane season. 

   “We haven’t had a major hurricane in this area in a while, and we’ve lost some experienced responders through retirements or normal attrition,” he explained.  “We have annual hurricane response training, but we stepped up the scenario by creating two major missions instead of one.”

  Stirrat said that under the direction of the FEMA the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers establishes Regional Field Offices to accomplish missions associated with a major disaster. 

   “One recovery mission is a major effort, so I had us doing a major roofing mission and a major debris mission after the hurricane passed.  This enables everyone to focus on their specific job, but also which additional resources they would need.  People have to keep track of additional volunteers who arrive in the area, and the numbers only grow with the amount of work that needs to be done.”

   To add realism, Stirrat and his team acquired a vacant building that would be suitable as a Recovery Field Office.  Responders inspected ventilation, floor space, communications and security to ensure the facility would mkeet the team’s needs in the event of a hurricane.  . 

  “What we are is a management cell that gets bigger,” Stirrat said.  “We looked at the building in terms of the growing numbers of people who would eventually occupy the building and the necessary equipment they’d need to effectively run recovery missions.  That means you have to have a big administrative staff to support everyone else who’s helping with the recovery; 1000 to 1200 people to execute the missions and people assembling in a seven to 10 day period.”

   Also providing realistic training and familiarization was a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville-based Deployable Tactical Operations System (DTOS) vehicle for training purposes. DTOS is basically a mobile command post designed to meet response requirements for natural or manmade disasters in the United States and overseas (as required), humanitarian assistance, military contingencies, and special non-disaster command requirements. DTOS can provide communications in forward areas during civil and military contingencies that would be interoperable with all USACE elements, Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal and state government agencies. 

Release no. 18-051