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NEWS | Oct. 28, 2012

National Guard responds to Hurricane Sandy, monitors tsunami

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - As more governors declared states of emergency in advance of Hurricane Sandy, the National Guard stood ready to respond to the aftermath of the storm.

It was a busy weekend for the National Guard Coordination Center here, as a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck British Columbia, Canada, late Saturday triggered tsunami warnings in Alaska and Hawaii and advisories in California and Oregon.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie declared a state of emergency. The Hawaii National Guard's Joint Operations Center was activated. The tsunami warning was downgraded to an advisory early today.

Meanwhile, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia were among jurisdictions declaring a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Sandy.

The National Guard Coordination Center was reporting 369 Guard members already activated in Delaware, North Carolina and Virginia as of this afternoon. With events moving rapidly on the ground, the numbers of Guard members and states were expected to increase.

"The National Guard is the hometown team," said Army Staff Sgt. Wayne Woolley of the New Jersey National Guard. "Soldiers and Airmen live in these communities, and they are eager to help and want to keep their fellow citizens safe."

The National Guard Bureau is monitoring the situation closely and coordinating with state, federal and local partners to ensure a coordinated and efficient response, Guard officials said. The National Guard - the nation's first military responder - supports the Federal Emergency Management Agency response and that of U.S. Northern Command, among other agencies.

More than 61,100 National Guard members are available to assist civilian authorities in potentially affected states in support of relief efforts. Available National Guard resources include almost 140 rotary-winged aircraft to perform search and rescue, reconnaissance and personnel or cargo-carrying missions.

In addition to the hurricane and the tsunami, on Sunday National Guard members were supporting the Department of Homeland Security in the four Southwest border states, conducting Counterdrug operations in multiple states, providing force protection in California and key asset protection in New York and supporting civilian authorities in the aftermath of natural disasters earlier this year in two states.

National Guard Civil Support Teams were also supporting major sporting events in six different states, and more than 24,000 Army and Air National Guard members were serving in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Djibouti, Guantanamo Bay, Honduras, the Sinai Desert and other overseas locations.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta agreed with the governors of Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to appoint dual status commanders as Hurricane Sandy approaches, according to Defense Department reports.

Dual status commanders can command both federal and state National Guard forces. This special authority enables them to effectively integrate defense support operations and capabilities requested by governors. Panetta is prepared to quickly agree to similar requests from other states, the Defense Department reported.

Governors warned of heavy rain, extensive power outages, significant flooding and dangerous conditions, according to National Guard Coordination Center reports. Guard officials at the center are monitoring Hurricane Sandy and the National Guard response in each state.

A state of emergency typically mobilizes resources to local governments that otherwise are restricted to state use only and suspends regulations that would impede rapid response. It also empowers emergency managers to use all available resources and personnel as deemed necessary.

Emergency Management Assistance Compacts - ratified by Congress and law in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands - allow states to provide mutual aid if needed.



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