MONTGOMERY, AL (08/27/2014)(readMedia)-- Leaders from the Alabama National Guard and Alabama Emergency Management Agency met with potential Title 10 active duty Army, Air Force, Navy and United States Coast Guard Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) partners, and FEMA at Joint Force Headquarters, Montgomery, Alabama, July 24, 2014, to discuss how they would operate together and support each other in the event of a complex disaster.
Members of this workshop discussed potential disaster scenarios that could occur in Alabama and the surrounding region. Each organization detailed the assets it would be able to provide if needed. With disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010, and the deadly tornadoes that swept across our state in 2011, Alabama's Guard and civil authorities are very familiar with disaster operations. The Alabama National Guard's Director of Joint Staff, Brig. Gen. Allen Harrell, believes preparedness is the most valuable asset to possess. "What if we do have that big event?" he asked. "It may be years from now, or it may be two weeks from now. What we want to do is be sure we understand what type of support is out there, what type of support we may need." The National Guard trains and operates differently from its active duty counterparts. Each organization has different procedures and capabilities, and this workshop allowed them to work through a contracted table top exercise and identify strengths and potential weaknesses in a joint response force. Col. James Hawkins, Alabama National Guard's director of military support said, "This was not just a great chance to meet our Title 10 partners but also an opportunity for each of them to meet each other.""We in the military are trained to go, go, go," said Harrell. "We have to realize we are in support of civil authorities and we can't just jump in there and take charge and do what we want. We do have to work together and have to share information to get the job done."Col. Jan Apo, the defense coordinating officer for FEMA Region 4, shared the capabilities of FEMA in the region. She explained that during a major disaster there is no time to waste when responding and providing aid to citizens. Building a good relationship with your partners before the disaster occurs is the best way to ensure no time is lost during an actual crisis. "Alabama does a real good job with their planning and the rigor of the planning," Apo said. "So when it comes time to execute, they don't waste a lot of time."The members plan to continue meeting annually to ensure the state and federal response force is ready for any major crisis. Throughout the year, the Alabama Guard and its state partner organizations meet for rehearsal of concept (ROC) and hurricane exercise (HURREX) drills to maintain proficiency in their plans."In the last 13 years, I have never seen the Guard and active duty be closer together in terms of abilities and capabilities," said Apo. "We've really worked through a lot of the challenges we had and I hope that we will continue to use that relationship and build on it."
Col. James S. Hawkins Jr., (Director of Military Support) Alabama Army National Guard, briefs the total concept of operations for hurricane response during a joint response workshop at Joint Force Headquarters here July 24, 2014.
Jeff Byard, executive operations officer, Alabama Emergency Management Agency; Col. Jan Apo, defense coordinating officer, FEMA Region IV; and Brig. Gen. Allen M. Harrell, director, joint staff, Alabama National Guard, discuss disaster response after a joint response workshop at Joint Force Headquarters here July 24, 2014.