Preparing the best for the worst: Exercise Typhoon Readiness 2015
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Typhoons make their debut in the Pacific region annually, causing damage along their path with destructive winds and heavy rainfall. Their powerful presence can affect the operations of military installations and the safety of people residing in the region.
In preparation for the annual typhoon season which is observed 1 June through 30 November, Exercise Typhoon Readiness 2015 trains Marine Corps Installations Pacific Marines 27 April through 7 May, in handling communications and instituting proper safety procedures as a typhoon approaches.
On Okinawa, the typhoon alert authority is delegated to U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Barry R. Cornish, 18th Wing Commander of Kadena Air Base. Cornish determines the level of Typhoon Cyclone Condition of Readiness on Okinawa.
“During a real typhoon, when the 18th Wing Commander issues the TCCOR changes, Marine commands on Okinawa carry out the proper precautions for that TCCOR,” said Allen Balabis, emergency manager for MCIPAC-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan.
Per the new USFJ instruction, there are 10 levels of TCCOR: storm watch, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1-Caution, 1-Emergency, 1-Recovery and all clear. Okinawa remains at TCCOR 4 during typhoon season. TCCOR 4 declares that destructive winds are possible within 72 hours.
There are different precautions that must be taken to promote overall safety of those in the typhoon zone. During the exercise, all levels of TCCOR are observed and practiced for accordingly.
“The exercise simulates a typhoon traveling through Okinawa and hitting main land Japan,” said Balabis. “All of the services are doing their part in the training to prepare for this season, including U.S. Forces Japan.”
Every year, new typhoon watch officers are assigned to each unit to help direct typhoon response, according to Capt. Helen P. Emery, assistant operations officer with G-3 operations and plans, MCIPAC. The exercise is designed to give the new typhoon watch officers an opportunity to practice their responsibilities prior to a real typhoon approaching.
“In each team we have five officers and five staff noncommissioned officers,” said Emery. “When a typhoon approaches, one team is called into (the MCIPAC headquarters building) to ensure that information is being collected, reported and disseminated correctly.”
Information is disseminated through different methods of mass communication in order to reach the public in a timely manner, according to Ian S. Pleet, Installation Emergency Manager for Combined Armed Training Center, Camp Fuji, Japan. AtHoc network crisis communication suite, Big Voice Communications, telephone, email, official installation websites and social media are some of the outlets used to spread information.
AtHoc is an emergency notification system that alerts all means of communication that it is connected to, such as smart phones, social media sites and email.
Big Voice is a communications system designed to reach a large audience immediately using voice recordings through phone or speaker.
“As the Installation Emergency Manager, it is my responsibility to ensure (the installation) is prepared to respond to all hazards,” said Pleet. “(Exercise Typhoon Readiness 2015) provides me with an excellent way to test my destructive weather operation procedures and find areas that need improvement. It allows me to update and improve operation procedures to best protect everyone aboard the installation before typhoon season begins.”