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NEWS | May 16, 2014

Had this been an actual emergency...Hurricane response exercise ensures plan runs smoothly

By Melissa Walther 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A category 2 hurricane struck Joint Base Langley-Eustis Tuesday afternoon, bringing winds from 96 to 110 mph and storm surge of 6 to 8 feet, causing moderate damage.

The "hurricane" was part of a table top-exercise held at Langley Air Force Base designed to familiarize emergency responders with disaster response plans already in place.

"We already have a plan in place, but what this exercise does is ensures people know that plan is there and how it would apply in a real-world situation," said Neale Cummings, the organizer for the exercise. Cummings, the 633rd Air Base Wing executive planner said the three main things he wanted to emphasize were the importance of accountability, reporting and shared resources.

The exercise involved representatives from Langley Air Force Base, Fort Eustis and local emergency responders.

"The emergency operations centers at Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis operate at the same time, but independently in this situation because the concerns of Langley are not likely to be the concerns of Eustis," Cummings said. "Langley usually faces flooding, while Eustis has to deal more with wind. There may be some flooding, but it's not their primary concern."

The exercise involved a series of questions based on how many hours the hurricane was from landfall which prompted participants to outline what their responsibilities and actions would be when presented with different scenarios.

"It was a great experience and I learned more about how to help the base as a whole," said Airman 1st Class Wesley Michaux, 633rd Civil Engineering Squadron emergency maintenance technician. "I'm new to the Air Force, but I've lived here all my life and been through things like they were describing before, and I think their plan can really keep people safe."

The exercise, which covered events from 96-hours-to-landfall to recovery, highlighted some of the ways the Army and Air Force could integrate efforts, including the use of the Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System.

"With AFPAAS, the Army doesn't have to worry about tracking any Air Force personnel on Fort Eustis, because Langley will be tracking them with that system," Cummings said.

After the emergency response coordinators came up with answers to their scenario, senior leadership was presented with those answers, ensuring everyone was on the same page.

"We just want to make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing and that there are no questions or things we need to work out before the real thing," Cummings said. "The scenario we presented was one that could actually happen, so it's important everyone knows that plan is in place and how to use it."