DLA Pacific preparation, team response critical as hurricane struck

By John R. Bell

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The island chain of Hawaii is only rarely in the path of a hurricane — but personnel from Defense Logistics Agency Pacific were well prepared when the outer bands of Hurricane Lane began to dump torrential rains on the state in late August, according to managers from DLA Pacific and DLA Headquarters.

Raising the Alert

On Aug. 22, Lane was a category 5 hurricane as it approached Hawaii from the south. That day, a White House emergency declaration authorized multiple federal agencies to prepare for and coordinate disaster relief in the state.

In advance of any severe storm, DLA Pacific staff jump into action when the Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness changes from its normal level of TCCOR 5, corresponding with no hurricane, to any lower number, explained Darryl Hicks, deputy chief of the DLA Pacific Logistics Operations Center.

TCCOR 1 is the most urgent readiness level; the local TCCOR for Hurricane Lane reached level 2 on Aug. 23, as the storm became Hawaii’s wettest tropical cyclone ever, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

When the TCCOR rises beyond 5, an alert system from the commander of Navy Region Hawaii goes out to all tenant organizations like DLA Pacific via mobile devices and social media. “Once we receive those alerts, that’s when we move into action,” Hicks said. At that point, leaders give employees instructions as to operating status.

Taking Action

Air Force Maj. Brandon Bryan, DLA Pacific’s operations and plans officer, was responsible for continuity of operations. When the first bands of Hurricane Lane struck the “big island” of Hawaii from the south, the alert went out for all DoD personnel to go to their homes to prepare for the storm, he explained. Most DLA personnel are stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, west of Honolulu on the island of Oahu, but others are stationed elsewhere.

Fortunately, the COOP call lists were updated, Bryan noted, particularly for senior leaders, and emergency meeting locations were prearranged. “We even had an ‘[in case of emergency] break glass’ plan for if the worst happened,” he said. In addition, DLA Pacific made sure employees knew how to sign up for alerts well in advance.

At the same time, each TCCOR level other than 5 (no storm) comes with its own severity-specific checklist, Bryan explained. So when a storm hits, the designated personnel should already be familiar with what each item on the checklist requires, along with their points of contact.

FEMA Partnership Critical

One of those points of contact in a severe storm would be the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hicks noted. DLA Pacific also knew if things got worse, it could rely on its longstanding relationship with FEMA, which would take the lead in assisting residents with emergency food, water, shelter and medical care.

“Typically, [FEMA] needs things like generators bottled water or MREs. But this time, they had plenty of stock, and they pushed some extra stock out here before the storm arrived,” he said. “We also made sure they knew who to contact if they needed any type of DLA support.”

In addition, DLA Pacific “had LNOs embedded with all the emergency management entities around the island,” Bryan said. “We made sure we were in sync with the JBPHH Emergency Operation Center,” he added, through DLA Pacific’s liaison officer there.

In addition, Navy ships sortied out into the Pacific thanks to full fuel tanks provided by DLA Energy, Bryan said. Ships also added last-minute stocks of ready-to-eat meals, Bryan said, as did the Air Force, with MREs sourced by DLA Troop Support and delivered through DLA Distribution.

Success — and a Larger Strategy

Ultimately, Lane brought more than 52 inches of rainfall in just four days, according to NOAA, causing severe flooding and property damage. But the storm did not cause the widespread devastation seen last year with each of the succession of hurricanes that struck the southern mainland United States and Puerto Rico.

However, DLA was prepared even for the worst, thanks in part to its methodical collaboration with FEMA, said Dan Strausbaugh, the FEMA liaison for DLA headquarters. He noted DLA has recently created additional prescripted mission assignments for FEMA. During a storm or other contingency, FEMA can immediately request support from DLA by using the PSMAs as statements of work — saving valuable time.

This is part of a larger effort by DLA to increase its advance support to FEMA in the Pacific, Strausbaugh said. “All our actions support FEMA’s intent of expanding in the Pacific, because of the time and distance it takes to appropriately respond to disasters.”

To that end, DLA has procured 213,000 emergency meals, known as humanitarian daily rations, stocked in Hawaii, Strausbaugh said. DLA is also working with FEMA to offer similar support in the U.S. territory of Guam, where the agency will provide 65,000 emergency meals to be available when needed, he said.

As to DLA’s response to Hurricane Lane, Strausbaugh credited the efforts of DLA Pacific, such as providing warehouse space at Pearl Harbor until FEMA can finalize its expansion of its own distribution center in Hawaii.

“It was evident that our efforts to support FEMA in the Pacific paid off,” Strausbaugh said. “FEMA and the Hawaii Emergency Operations Center had plenty of resources to assist when and where needed,” had the significant destruction been more widespread.