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National Capital Region Practices Response to a Hurricane

May 1, 2007

In its wake, a hurricane leaves a path of widespread power outages, flooded and damaged homes, displaced residents, trauma, injuries, and death. Preparing for such disasters in the National Capital Region (NCR) is complex because of its critical assets, large populations, and unique political status. To help address this challenge, the Exercise and Training Operations Panel (ETOP) with representatives from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia recently sponsored an exercise, titled Regional Response 07, to practice the response and recovery to a hurricane. Requested by Chief Administrative Officers in the local NCR jurisdictions, this exercise was designed to focus on both the response and recovery missions of local jurisdictions and their Emergency Operations Center (EOCs) following a hurricane. Involving hundreds of players, participants included Regional Emergency Support Function (RESF) stakeholders as well as agencies in NCR local jurisdictions, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Federal Officials (FEMA, DHS), Joint Forces Headquarters of the NCR, American Red Cross, PEPCO, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, among others. This exercise was conducted in coordination with statewide exercises in Maryland and Virginia and a Regional exercise through FEMA region III.

The fictional exercise scenario involved “Hurricane Zephyr” making landfall at the Virginia/North Carolina border on Labor Day. The participants were forced to deal with issues associated to large scale power outages, wide spread debris issues on roads and other transportation routes, evacuee sheltering, and the establishment of family assistance centers. The participants also coordinated food and water distribution for shelters and nursing homes and provided governmental assistance to citizens with flooded homes and businesses. The local EOCs coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions and with the states to share information on the situation, disseminate public information messages, and coordinate the management of resources. Merni Fitzgerald, spokeswomen for the exercise from Fairfax County, said that the NCR exercise “was very successful in getting us to collaborate and communicate with each other. There were many communications across boundaries, the boundaries of government, and the boundaries of private and public [sectors].” The multi-jurisdictional nature of the response and recovery efforts was the central success of this exercise.

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