Hurricane Storm Relief The community of Miñi Miñi in Loíza, Puerto Rico, flooded after Hurricane Maria
Storm Relief The Role Training Ships Play After Natural Disasters
FEMA / Yuisa Rios
By Commodore Thomas L. Bushy, USMS (Ret.)
hen a natur al disaster hits in the U.S. the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) kicks into high gear, helping to allocate first responders, pre-position logistical supplies and cascade efforts into the affected zone to help promote expedient recovery to affected citizens. But when the disaster is larger than what’s expected, the holes in FEMA’s planning become glaringly apparent. An important element of FEMA’s recovery efforts is to find emergency housing for personnel, responders, and tradesmen that come into affected areas. Housing is one thing, but feeding them and providing them with sanitary facilities can be a burden. When Hurricane Katrina roared into Louisiana and Mississippi in August of 2005 it resulted in catastrophic flooding that submerged much of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. FEMA responded and found a vast area so devastated that any concept of rapid remediation was hopeless as there was no shelter, no gasoline, and no food stores. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy created a similar situation in New York and
New Jersey, albeit in a much smaller area but among the nation’s most populated. By the time Hurricane Harvey descended upon Texas in September of 2017 FEMA was ready. The administration had worked hand-in-hand with state agencies and law enforcement to hit the ground running. However, Mother Nature had other plans, following Harvey with a 1-2 punch in the form of Hurricanes Irma and Maria—the former in Florida and the latter on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The Hurricanes caused all planning to unravel. No one anticipated the level of destruction that would happen 1,500 miles from the U.S. mainland—Puerto Rico was in the dark (at press time, eight months after the storm made landfall, there was still parts of the island without power), with no services such as electricity, refrigeration, or fuel available.
Activating the Training Ships State Maritime Academies (SMA) operate federally owned ships under a memorandum of agreement with Department of Transportation (DOT) Maritime Administration (MARAD) that can be used in times of emergencies.
State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College’s Empire State VI has been activated four times over its more than 50 years in service. The Empire State VI was activated in 1993 to support troop activity in Somali—the only time an SMA ship engaged in troop support—and three other times to support emergency relief. The ship was dispatched to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, remained in homeport but utilized in 2012 for Superstorm Sandy, and in Florida then San Juan for Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in 2017. The training ship State of Maine of Maine Maritime Academy saw service in Hurricane Katrina. And Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s Kennedy provided services in Superstorm Sandy, as well as Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria. The T.S. General Rudder of the Texas A & M Galveston Campus – or Texas Maritime Academy – was utilized for Hurricane Harvey in their homeport. The ships help support FEMA’s efforts by providing shelter, food, beds, and supplies to those in affected areas, but the ships aren’t usually activated right away. Delays in crewing, supply deliveries and the process for activating the ships can hinder efforts. June 2018 // Marine Log 31