Prepping for the Worst, Hoping for the Best

Typhoon Sanba kicks up a mean wave (NBC News photo)

Military exercises don’t always hone wartime skills. They also practice disaster response, so when the “real one” hits, everyone knows what to do.

At the beginning of typhoon season (see my earlier post), III MEF (Sean’s unit) prepares Okinawa residents for a bad storm. (Good thing, too, since two “super typhoons” have pummeled Oki in the last month.) They publish “disaster kit” lists (bottled water, batteries, flashlights, etc.), inform everyone about the different levels of typhoon warnings, and post frequent updates to their Twitter and Facebook accounts when storms approach.

“The critical thing… [is to] have a discussion about what to do and where to go should an event occur,” said the regional installation emergency manager. So far, so good. The Japanese know how to build for such storms. I haven’t even heard of any injuries or serious property damage (other than electrical damage to a camp fieldhouse) from the last two storms, much less deaths.

As if typhoons weren’t bad enough, they must also deal with the potential for earthquakes and tsunamis. III MEF recently installed a new tsunami warning system and tested it during their annual “all-hazards” exercise. This system will “significantly improve the safety of personnel who live or work in low-lying coastal areas….and improve their ability to safely and expeditiously evacuate those in harm’s way,” said a recent issue of the base newspaper. NOAA says that Japan has experienced the most tsunamis of anywhere in the world.

Sometimes, Marine units hold joint disaster exercises with local Japanese officials. This year’s exercise simulated a large earthquake, and the local authorities asked the 12th Brigade to assist with response operations. “As Marines, we are always ready to do humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations when asked by Japan,” said a local commander.

CBRN exercise (USMC photo by LCpl Daniel E. Valle)

Not all disaster exercises plan for natural events. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit recently held a CBRN exercise, where they practiced mass-casualty decontamination procedures. I try not to dwell on the meaning of CBRN: chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear.

So far, our Marine hasn’t participated in any of these exercises, but there’s always the potential. It sure would put his emergency management degree to good use. Stay safe!


Posted on September 19, 2012, in Boot Camp, III MEF, Military Parent, Okinawa, US Marine Corps and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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