Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet, I'm Huntin' Huwicanes

State Emergency Management Conference - Final Day

First up this morning was a regional coordinator from FEMA.  He accidentally started showing a PowerPoint that listed the locations of the re-education camps, details on the adoption of the Amero on Dec. 21, and a map of the secret headquarters hidden under the Denver airport...  That would be a LOT funnier if this were Sunday!

Seriously, he gave a basic overview of FEMA's role during local emergencies.  He was very specific about the fact that FEMA does not deal with disaster response, they are there to help with recovery.  He talked a little about what they are doing to reach out to the handicapped as well.

  The next speaker was Capt. Frank Duarte of the Pima County Sheriff's Department in Tuscon, Arizona.  Capt. Duarte gave a pretty good after-action report on the 1/8/11 mass shooting by a deranged man that killed a federal judge, a little girl, a 30 year old activist, and three senior citizens... and wounded 13 others including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  In addition to all the logistical and incident management details, he also shared some good information a that preppers can relate to.

He spoke about the importance of first responders and their family members having "go bags" and emergency plans.  That way, the responders don't have to worry about their family so that they can give full attention to the mission.  For the initial on-scene planning, they use dry erase markers on their white patrol cars.  They have grease pencils available if it rains, but like he said, that hardly ever happens.  I had never thought about using the dry erase markers on a car, but it could be a good way to leave a message for family if you are trying to connect in a bug out situation.  He also talked about the Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK) that are issued to every deputy in Pima Co.  Each kit has "combat gauze" (I'm assuming he means a Quick Clot product), two compression bandages (I'm assuming Israeli Battle Dressings), a chest seal, a tourniquet and medical shears.  The IFAKs had been designed and issued, and training given, just a few months prior.  An ER doctor at the hospital who had served in Afghanistan said that the use of those kits at the scene saved three lives that would not have made it if they waited for EMS to respond and being treatment.  I'm sure most of you remember what a kook the Pima Co. Sheriff was in press conferences after the shootings, but despite Sheriff Grandpa Munster, from what I saw today, the law enforcement, fire and rescue professionals of Pima Co. did a fantastic job with a very difficult situation.

Next up was a brief report from a representative from the National Weather Service speaking on the concept of "Weather Ready Nation."  They are promoting the Weather Ready Nation as a new program they will be implementing over the next couple of years.  There is a four point plan to get there:
  1. Assisting at local EOCs during weather emergencies with on demand briefings, EOC staffing, and a new position of Emergency Response Specialist Meteorologists trained not only in weather, but in emergency management.
  2. Full explanations about the range of possibilities that might result from different weather systems and what could impact them.
  3. Awareness of societal impacts from weather (for instance, did you know that the Washington D.C. Metro trains can't run in 8 inches of snow because it interferes with the electrical current running through the rails?
  4. Roll it all together to form a Weather Ready Nation while "saving lives and protecting property."
The final presentation was from Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa, the Safety Officer for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the U.S. Air Force Reserve.  The 53rd is better known as the "Hurricane Hunters."  These are the men and women who fly right into the heart of hurricanes to take measurements and perform research so that lives can be saved with knowledge about when and where the storm will strike.

Col. Ragusa has over 8,000 hours of time in left seat, and has been a hurricane hunter since 2002.  The Hunters fly the newest version of the venerable C130, the WC130J.  Each of these aircraft cost $70 million, and there are ten of them in the inventory.  There are another two Hurricane Hunter aircraft, P3s, that belong to NOAA.  A unique fact about the Air Force Hunters is that their chain of command leads to the National Hurricane Center, not the upper echelons of the Air Force.

Some other interesting facts:
  • When the Hunters fly into a new hurricane, they typically go in at 500 to 1,500 feet.  Despite the fact that hurricanes can be over 60,000 feet tall, the aircraft never go over 10,000 feet in a storm because of the increased risk of ice and lightning.
  • The five-person crew flies a 105 mile X pattern in and out of the hurricane, with the crossing point of the X in the center of the hurricane's eye.
  • Even Cuba cooperates with airspace clearance.
  • Next time there is a hurricane, use Google Earth and you can get some of the same near real time information that the Hunters are sending to the National Hurricane Center.
  • The Hunters are credited with increasing the accuracy of predictions by 25-30%
  • In addition to the very busy status during hurricane season, the Hunters deploy to Alaska for a couple of months each winter to investigate winter storms, they fly humanitarian aid missions throughout the Western Hemisphere, and they fly combat missions to Afghanistan and Iraq. 
The Hurricane Hunters don't get a whole lot of glory, but they truly do a wonderful job of defending our country against the forces of nature.

Here's a picture of Lt. Col. Ragusa.  I salute and thank him and his fellow Hurricane Hunters.

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