(Via Ho’okele News)
Story and photo by MC3 Johans Chavarro
Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Detachment Hawaii
In preparation for hurricane season, Navy Region Hawaii conducted its annual hurricane readiness exercise, HURREX, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) and the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) May 5-9.
Navy Region Hawaii conducted HURREX to teach personnel and family members how to prepare for hurricanes and associated effects brought on by a major storm event. Although the exercise storm is fictional, the need to prepare is real. This year, Navy Region Hawaii and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam conducted both before and after landfall components to the exercise.
According to Angela Perryman, Military and Family Support Center site manager, during an approaching hurricane personnel must be able to handle matters quickly and efficiently to more smoothly ride out the storm.
“We can have a disaster at any point,” said Perryman.
“Whether it’s a natural disaster or whether it’s a man-made disaster or some other kind of threat, it’s important to have time carved out so everyone can come together and practice the exercise.
It’s important to see how we would go through processing service members and their family members in a real-world situation. Determining housing situations and additional services they might need are the kinds of things that are good to practice now before hurricane season,” Perryman explained.
Participants role-played emergency situations and visited representatives from multiple organizations including the Navy Marine-Corps Relief Society, Navy and Air Force medical groups and housing departments.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Mishell Miyashiro, as-signed to Naval Health Clinic Hawaii, explained how mock exercises like HURREX teach staff members how to remain flexible and think on their feet to accomplish the mission at hand.
“If something actually ends up happening, rarely will things ever go as planned,” said Miyashiro. “That’s when you need to learn how to improvise because maybe initially on paper, patients were supposed to go directly to medical, but as you go through the mock exercise you see that medical is being overwhelmed and patients are not actually being seen where they need to be seen, so then you may need to triage them at the door. Or maybe you realize checking in with social services should come first, or actually admin should come first, or something else. So whenever you get to do hands-on, you see the pros and cons which helps you prepare better for the next time,” Miyashiro added.
Perryman echoed Miyashiro’s sentiments, noting, how the mock exercises gets staff members engaged with people, something that a structured classroom setting can never fully replicate.
“When you have actual players coming in with situations already in their heads or with given scenarios and you have the staff engage with them on that level, it takes them away from that classroom training situation and puts them in a real-world event where they actually have to think through on how they would respond to that person and what organization they would refer that person to,” said Perryman.
Lt. Evelyn Palm, assigned to Naval Health Clinic Hawaii, said events like HURREX help to teach and improve operations at the command level as well.
“Participating in this real-world exercise, we are looking at our current capabilities and the services we can offer, be it tending to both active-duty service members and civilians or any other situation we might be presented with. In the case of an emergency, we understand that our plans need to remain flexible and allow for changes where necessary as the situation changes. So this is a fine way of learning where to make those changes and also how to implement them, so we can expand our capabilities,” Palm said.
In the end, Perryman said the goal of HURREX is to set a stage where participants can rehearse, learn and teach what channels are available in the case of emergency situations.
“It’s an exercise for a reason,” said Perryman. “So it gives us an opportunity to look at ways to improve things we need to do differently, communications that may need to happen differently, and to prepare ourselves for when a real-world event was going to happen because you never know what an event is going to be.
“We just have to remember to be flexible and have everybody trained so the roles are easily interchangeable. That way, anybody here can pick up a role and know exactly what it is they are supposed to do,” she said.
According to emergency management experts, personnel should have a number of things ready in case of an emergency, especially one that may require evacuation like a hurricane. Individuals and family members should have a firm plan in place of where to go, what to do, and what to take if they need to evacuate during a hurricane.
Emergency kits should include enough food and water to last several days, necessary medications, and other items such as maps, tools, flashlights and a first aid kit. Evacuees should also stay informed of up-to-date information regarding road and base closures, unsafe traveling conditions and weather warnings.
In case of a hurricane or tropical storm, residents are advised to avoid using the phone except for serious emergencies. They should listen to the radio or TV for more information and further instructions, secure their home by closing storm shutters and bringing outdoor furniture inside, ensure a supply of water for household purposes, turn the refrigerator to the coldest setting and keep the door closed, and turn off utilities, if told to do so.
If an evacuation order comes, residents are advised not to ignore it but to follow the guidelines given regarding times and routes and take only essential items and their emergency kit.
For more information on emergency preparedness, visit http://ow.ly/wQYOR.