By Earl Bittner, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs Office
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- In preparation for the 2014 hurricane season, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast's Contingency Engineering Response Team (CERT) responded to a simulated hurricane (Hurricane Quinn), May 14.
The team will assess damage to various buildings to the notional impact location onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville to facilitate the training.
The team prepared to assess damage that could be caused by a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 115 gusting to 150 miles per hour hypothetically impacting NAS Corpus Christi and NAS Kingsville, Texas.
"NAS Jacksonville provided a perfect deployed location for CERT and disaster assessment team (DAT) training," said Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth L. Vargas, NAVFAC Southeast Disaster Preparedness Officer. "Each year we prepare our teams for the upcoming hurricane season to be ready for any storm or natural disaster."
This training is part of the annual plan to maintain skills and readiness for both new and experienced CERT members.
The Navy exercises preparedness for hurricane season each year. HURREX (Hurricane Exercise) Citadel Gale 2014 runs May 5-15. The exercise helps prepare regions Navy-wide to respond to weather threats to the U.S. coast and maintain the ability to deploy forces even under the worst weather conditions and mitigate any damage to navy faciltities that may occur.
"During the 2014 HURREX we will exercise command and control (C2) from a central Emergency Operations Center at our headquarters onboard NAS Jacksonville and in the field which this year is NAS Jacksonville standing in for NAS Corpus Christi and NAS Kingsville for this exercise," said Vargas. "We deployed a CERT here locally to practice deployment procedures."
"NAVFAC CERTs are a key part of the overall base recovery efforts after a storm," Vargas stated.
CERTs consist of one or more DATs as well as construction support teams to administer contingency contracts, if any. DATs are made up of personnel who enable installation facility repair efforts. The teams consist of active-duty civil engineer corps officers, civilian engineers, architects, project managers, facilities managers and contract specialists.
"The CERT is a compilation of experts and capabilities resident within NAVFAC Southeast," said Vargas.
Before the assembled team 'deployed' to the Public Works Department at NAS Jacksonville, NAVFAC Southeast Contingency Engineer Don Maconi, offered words of encouragement and focus to the CERT members.
"As you deploy, first and foremost be safe," said Maconi. "The intent today is to get as much training accomplished as we can. This is a great training opportunity. So - as you go about your assessments - if you think of something that can improve our processes, document it and include it in your after action reports."
The CERT deploys with some pretty high tech equipment including hand-held repeater radios, GPS enabled digital cameras and a bus outfitted as a Mobile Command Post (MCP) filled with laptops, a fax machine, weather equipment and other sundries.
"We use several communications means through our MCP to relay critical damage assessment information," said Vargas. "We have satellite abilities, wireless communications, facsimile, scanning, NMCI (Navy Marine Corps Internet) and commercial internet and email capabilities."
The C2 features streamline the process of getting engineering assessment data of damage to headquarters officials allowing NAVFAC leadership to make engineering recommendations to the Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) with the end goal of getting the damaged base repaired and fully mission capable in short order.
"As CERT members, we are charged with the responsibility to support installation and combatant commanders response efforts and work to ensure the affected installation can return to normal operations as quickly as possible," said Maconi. "These tools help us complete our mission."
CERT capabilities have been demonstrated as teams were sent to Navy installations in the Gulf Coast Region after Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. Members of the team also deployed to assist with disaster assessments in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and after Hurricane Isaac impacted Louisiana in August 2012 and most recently for the torrential storms that impacted NAS Pensacola April 29-30.