News: JECC participates in largest earthquake exercise ever
Story by Whitney Katz
NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. – On Oct. 17, the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC), participated with Naval Station Norfolk in one of the many Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills conducted worldwide each year. While earthquakes are a rare occurrence in the southeastern United States; in August 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Mineral, Va. and the tremors could be felt throughout the eastern seaboard, including Naval Station Norfolk, where the JECC and two of its subordinate joint commands – the Joint Planning Support Element and the Joint Public Affairs Support Element – are headquartered.
This unexpected event provided motivation for the JECC to participate in one of the largest earthquake exercises ever. Since 2008, Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills have been conducted annually by a wide range of local and national partners, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, to train personnel and organizations on the correct actions to take during an earthquake. More than 22 million participants registered for this year’s Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills, which included separate, but simultaneous drills in various regions across the globe.
“These drills provide a timely and relevant opportunity for the entire community to get prepared, practice what to do to be safe and learn what emergency plans need to be improved,” explained Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, in a letter posted on the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills website.
This was the JECC’s second time participating with Naval Station Norfolk in the “Great Southeast ShakeOut Earthquake Exercise,” the southeastern United States’ regional exercise, which independently drew more than 1.8 million participants. The JECC leadership stressed the significance of this exercise to ensure the command personnel are well-versed in emergency procedures, evacuation routes and general safety measures.
“If the JECC experienced a real-world incident, we need to know the processes and have the tools in place to maintain the safety of all our members,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Bret C. Batchelder, the Commander, JECC. “The value of preparing ourselves and exercising these drills, in the chance we have to execute them, is extremely important.”
At approximately 10:17 a.m., the exercise commenced with 60 seconds of simulated earthquake shaking broadcast through Naval Station Norfolk’s Giant Voice system. In an effort to make this exercise as realistic as possible, JECC members performed the appropriate safety measures, including the recommended “Drop, Cover and Hold On” procedure, in addition to a full evacuation and muster of personnel at the JECC’s pre-designated assembly point outside the headquarters building.
In the event of an actual earthquake, the JECC would also adhere to various decision points, which were also completed during this exercise; such as checking for damage and conducting inspections of the building’s structure to verify that it is safe for personnel to return to work. The JECC’s involvement in this exercise accomplished specific tasks outlined in the JECC’s emergency management plan, like those decision points, which ensures the command is fully prepared for a variety of manmade and natural disasters, including earthquakes.
“It is worthwhile to continually test these procedures and educate the staff on the recommended processes so that everyone will understand what is required if and when a disaster strikes,” said Mr. Jerry Johnson, the Director of the J4 logistics directorate, who played a key role in this exercise as the person responsible for verifying the safety of the building.
Following the exercise, members of the JECC J3 operations directorate and the JECC J4 logistics directorate gathered to discuss those processes and procedures which were executed seamlessly and those which could use some improvement.
“We want to ensure that our procedures make sense,” said Mr. Steve Daughtridge, the J33 Deputy Branch Chief and one of the main architects of this exercise. “We need to confirm that our processes are sound and include the most efficient methods for accounting for personnel.”
With a mission that requires the JECC to respond to worldwide crises at a moment’s notice, the staff understands the importance of being fully prepared for unforeseen events. The JECC will continue to participate in training exercises which provide an opportunity to educate the force and prepare the command for any possible scenario.