By MC3 Michael Lopez
NPASE Detachment Southeast
More than 40 Navy leadership personnel from Naval Station Mayport commands and the Southeast Region attended a 2017 Hurricane Season Workshop hosted by Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO)/U.S. 4th Fleet at the base's Building 1 on April 4.
The workshop served as a pre-season outlook for leaders and waterfront personnel to acquire and share information to better prepare themselves to help their Sailors and civilian employees prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, which runs June 1 to November 30.
"As leaders, we're here to ensure that we have the plans and procedures in place to execute fleet safety for our ships," said Cmdr. Mark Butler, fleet oceanographer for USNAVSO/U.S. 4th Fleet. "But we must also focus on managing safety of our shore assets and our Sailors."
During the brief, Rear Adm. Sean Buck, Commander, USNAVSO/U.S. 4th Fleet, addressed the room with praiseful remarks regarding previous works.
"I have never seen better teamwork than I did last year when team Jacksonville and team Mayport bore down and handled Hurricane Matthew the way they did," said Buck. "Because of the quality of teamwork and planning from these Sailors, I'm thankful to still have many of them on our team this year."
The power of information and awareness was stressed moving forward, and leaders were encouraged to engage their Sailors with preparedness as a topic of discussion.
"As we get closer to hurricane season," said Butler. "More information packages will be going out to make sure that we have precautions in place, evacuation plans and general safety information, and this will be important for Sailors and their families to pay attention to as time progresses."
"I know we're good to go, and our head is in the game," said Buck. "We will be ready for whatever mother nature throws at us."
The conference discussed plans for HURREX/Citadel Gale 2017, an upcoming annual exercise in which a hurricane situation is simulated so that personnel can prepare beforehand.
"Coming out of HURREX last year, we developed communications mechanisms to get our message across quickly to the people who needed it," said Lt. Cmdr. Jake Faulds, an operations officer at Commander, Naval Surface Squadron 14. "We opened that line of communication early so that by the time Hurricane Matthew rolled around, we were pretty well oiled and able to make smart decisions early."
Along with the annual drill, sortie processes and procedures were discussed to reduce the risk of significant damage to ships and piers during extreme weather conditions such as high winds and seas.
"There are a lot of different facets involved in moving an entire Navy base, getting everyone to safety and protecting our equipment," said Lt. Erik Gardner, operations officer aboard USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). "I think today did a great job of bringing everyone in the same room and identifying the things we need to talk about and be ready for."
For families to do their part, knowing the hurricane routes, having a well-stocked emergency kit and identifying their resources for information like the City of Jacksonville Preparedness Guide is a good start.
"We have a military page in the guide that we update every year," said Steve Millican, installation emergency management officer. It will show you where to go, whom to call and give you more resources. It's like a one stop shop preparedness guide."
Emergency kits should include batteries, flashlights, weather radios, blankets, food and water.
A list of suggested emergency items is listed on many emergency-oriented websites such as the American Red Cross, READY.GOV and the Navy Family Accountability Assessment System (NFAAS).
Another important action is to ensure each Sailor updates NFAAS, which is an essential resource to track Navy personnel and family members during crisis or natural disasters.
All service members and contracted personnel with NMCI access are required to register themselves and their family with NFAAS for updates to current weather situations and accountability of personnel.
For more information about emergency preparedness visit www.ready.navy.mil.