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Posted 7/1/2013

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By John H. Campbell

“Logistics, what’s your role at this point?”

“Corporate Communications, how are we getting information out to our employees?” 

“Is everyone’s computer working at this location?”

That’s just a sampling of some of the questions that were asked during Jacksonville District’s Continuity of Operations (COOP) exercise held June 4. The exercise was the latest activity conducted by the district in preparation for hurricane season, which began on June 1.

“It was a great exercise,” said Col. Alan Dodd, district commander. “It was a great opportunity for us to come together and focus on what we would do and how we would do it during a disaster.”

The exercise tested the COOP plan, which identifies critical actions that must continue in the event the district’s headquarters building was no longer inhabitable because of fire, flood or some other event. 

“The objectives were to exercise and remind our Crisis Action Team (CAT) on what is involved in a potential building closure or threat from both notice and no-notice events,” said Aaron Stormant, Emergency Management Branch chief. “This exercise allowed the CAT to go to the actual COOP site, which will become a strategic command post for our operations.  It familiarizes the team on where they would go in a real event.”

The district’s CAT consists mostly of division heads and staff chiefs.  As part of the exercise, they described considerations, decisions and actions as a simulated hurricane moved toward Florida’s east coast, with Jacksonville in its crosshairs.

“We have a responsibility to fulfill our missions whether we are in the headquarters building or if we need to work someplace else,” said Dodd.  “This exercise gave us the opportunity to look at how we would operate should our building be uninhabitable.”

Stormant says participants met the objectives of the exercise, even though it was a new experience for many of them.

“We got great feedback from the CAT during our hotwash at the end of the exercise,” said Stormant.  “Many leaders had no idea what was involved in a COOP, as several that were here for the last COOP in 2010 have moved on, retired or are in other positions.”

The Emergency Management Branch is now updating the district’s COOP plan. Stormant continues to remind people to avoid becoming complacent. 

“The last time we had a major hurricane come through Jacksonville was Hurricane Dora in 1964,” said Stormant.  “The last time we had a major scare was in 1999 from Hurricane Floyd, where cars were backed up all over the place.  People were not prepared.”

“There’s always a chance a disaster could happen in Florida,” said Dodd. “We need to be able to react to that.  That means more than just taking care of our families.  For some people, it means continuing to do our jobs and continue our operation.  Everyone needs to think about what they would do in case of a disaster or hurricane and put personal plans into effect.”

aaron stormant alan dodd Colonel Alan Dodd communications COOP plan corps Crisis Action Team (CAT) Disaster Response emergency emergency management Emergency Management Branch exercise Jacksonville District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE