News: Preparing for emergency evacuations
Story by Lance Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, military volunteers and civilians participated in a simulated noncombatant evacuation operation here, Feb. 23- 25.
Noncombatant evacuation operations evacuate civilian noncombatants and nonessential military personnel from locations in a foreign nation to a designated safe-haven during times of endangerment.
Endangerment can be imminent during a natural disaster, hostilities or time of war, said Lt. Col. Michael R. Coletta, H&HS commanding officer.
The first step in the exercise was to inform civilians and military spouses about the NEO process and essential documents they would need to keep in their NEO envelopes for processing.
“In the event that we actually need to evacuate noncombatants, the NEO packages are all ready to go,” said Coletta. “We have to be proactive.”
H&HS personnel worked hand-in-hand with family readiness, the American Red Cross and Department of Defense educators to gather experience and feedback during execution.
The family readiness officer played an important role in the NEO exercise by relaying vital information from the H&HS command to the spouses and families.
H&HS personnel put out a list of essential and suggested items printed on the front of a NEO envelope to assist civilians and military families with preparation.
Identification cards and passports are vital to include in the NEO package as well as a power of attorney, which allows a military spouse to act on the service member’s behalf in the service member’s absence, said LaToya Diane Heard, H&HS family readiness officer.
Single military parents are also encouraged to have a family care plan and should designate someone to be in charge of the child in case of an emergency, she said.
Once information and packages were assembled, evacuee participants processed their information at various stations, manned by military volunteers during a simulated evacuation scenario.
“The packet was very extensive but very thorough,” said Netra Harwell, evacuee and educator at Matthew C. Perry High School. “It prepared us to be able to function in any other place and have success anywhere we go. The stations were also informative for me regarding how to handle issues and situations with my off-base residents and how to turn over properties."
According to Harwell, the training for the Marine volunteers was instructional because it gave them experience with the process by exercising with a small group.
“The gathering of the information prior to any form of possible evacuation is key,” said Harwell. “When the moment arrives, there is no time to go back and gather those things.”
The American Red Cross played a vital role in the NEO exercise by providing disaster welfare information about connecting evacuees to families and loved ones through www.safeandwell.org.
The purpose of the safe and well website is to provide a platform for communication and peace of mind to those concerned about loved ones during disasters, said Brenda Hindman, American Red Cross station manager.
“We are the helping hand,” said Hindman. “When a NEO happens, we are the ones who help coordinate and provide a link to the families back home.”
American Red Cross volunteers also assist families and individuals to register on the Safe and Well website, post messages and manage phone calls concerning the whereabouts of loved ones to ensure safety and wellbeing.
Due to successful execution of the NEO, the H&HS command was able to gather feedback from a wide spectrum of evacuees.
According to Rosa Taylor, NEO participant, going through the exercise has given her peace of mind and informed her about many aspects she had not considered when preparing for a possible evacuation.
“I know that my paperwork is already filled out, and I know that at a moment’s notice I will be taken care of and my family will be taken care of,” said Taylor.
Noncombatant evacuation envelopes and folders must be kept in each household in case of emergency.
The following forms should be completed and up to date: DD Form 1337 authorization/designation for emergency pay and allowance (for military), DD Form 2461 (for civilians), DD Form 1745 animals euthanasia, DD Form 1797 personal property counseling checklist, DD Form 2209 veterinary heath certificate, DD Form 2585 preparation sheet, a copy of vehicle registration and TMO form.
All forms can be downloaded at http://www.marines.mil/unit/mcasiwakuni/pages/neo/neo.aspx.
The following items should be kept in the NEO envelope: ID cards, U.S. passport for all family members, birth certificates, medical and immunization records, housing documents with inventory, housing contract, automobile papers with bill of sale and registration, legal documents, insurance policies, powers of attorney, traveler’s checks or other forms of currency, completed noncombatant information cards and instructions to dependents upon return to the U.S.