Naval Station Mayport and Naval Air Station Jacksonville, along with other Navy commands around the country, are getting ready to conduct drills designed to train emergency responders ahead of hurricane season.
The Hurricane Exercise/Citadel Gale 2019, otherwise known as HURREX/CG 19, will run from April 15-26 and will involve a simulated storm system developing and intensifying to hurricane strength. The annual exercise aims to prepare Navy commands to respond to weather threats in coastal regions and to maintain the ability to deploy forces even during the most intense weather conditions.
“The purpose of this hurricane exercise is to hone those skills that are so necessary when it comes to the real thing,” said Bill Austin, Public Affairs Officer at Naval Station Mayport. “There’s all these little factors that you don’t think about until you have to pull the trigger and go. We want them to start thinking about it now.”
Between 11,000 and 12,000 people live and work at Naval Station Mayport alone, said Emergency Manager Steve Millican.
“It’s all about preparedness,” he said. “Getting the families to kind of personalize everything that’s happening so they can take ownership of their own preparation.”
But when a storm does hit, Millican said personnel aren’t the only concern.
“We have a lot of your taxpayer money invested in facilities here - ships and aircraft,” he said. “Our main priority of course is making sure people are prepared so we don't get anybody killed or hurt. Then we shift over to the facility side.”
Millican said during HURREX/CG 19 the station will be reviewing processes for ships and aircraft, evacuation, continuity of operations and how to smoothly shift mission functions from one place to another. Meetings will also be held with personnel and their families to go over how people will get paid if they have to evacuate, how to submit travel and insurance claims as well as how to find points of distribution for food, water and medicine, among other things.
Coordinators have taken steps to minimize disruptions to normal base operations during the exercise, but there could be instances of increased traffic around the bases or delays in base access as drills are conducted. There will be no U.S. Navy aircraft or ship movements during the exercise.
During actual evacuations and storm events, people living and working at NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport are encouraged to monitor the stations’ social media pages, which will be regularly posting updated information, as well as local news outlets.