Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD)
Participates in Two-Day Disaster Mitigation,
Relief and Construction Exercise

By JTF-HD and FSM Information Services

(Palikir, Pohnpei) – Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) National and State Officials, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) combined to participate in an intensive tabletop exercise here Oct. 18-19 in order to review the Operational Blueprint established by the US Department of Homeland Security and USAID.

“This blueprint outlines the process and procedure provided by the U.S. to the FSM for requesting and receiving U.S. disaster response/relief, should any type of disaster, including typhoons, occur in any of the four FSM states,” said Army Lt. Col. Shane Elkins, JTF-HD Operations Officer. The exercise created a hypothetical typhoon scenario aimed at testing preparedness, response and reconstruction. The scenario included damage and/or destruction of up to 90% of private residences and extensive damage to public infrastructure inflicted by a Category 3 typhoon. “This was like the real deal,” said Elkins. “Nowhere to run or hide when these babies hit,” he said.

Joint Task Force - Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) helped to facilitate the two-day disaster mitigation, relief and construction tabletop exercise held in Palikir, Pohnpei Oct. 18-19. (Official JTF-HD Photos)

The exercise offered participants an opportunity to analyze, plan and coordinate response efforts in order to minimize the risk to communities. It also helped them to assess their state of readiness, discuss coordination mechanisms and identify gaps to be addressed prior to the imminent typhoon season.

Participants were tasked with forming four separate groups to work through three proposed modules: typhoon preparedness, typhoon impact and response, and typhoon post-impact reconstruction. The teams worked through each module using potential real life examples of the typhoon approaching the FSM, resulting in the ensuing damage. The tabletop exercise allowed all parties to analyze, plan and coordinate the actions they should take before, during and after a disaster event to minimize as much as possible risks for FSM residents.

"Micronesian and US officials taking part in the exercise described it as constructive and hoped that it could be organized annually to improve preparedness and ensure optimum coordination in the event of a major natural disaster in the region," said IOM official, Ashley Carl.

JTF-HD Operations Officer, Army Lt. Col. Shane Elkins, addresses the crowd during the tabletop exercise in Palikir, Pohnpei Oct. 18-19. (Official JTF-HD Photos)

The exercise was held at the Pohnpei Governor's Conference Room and was attended by more than 75 participants, including Director Yatilman of the Office of Environment and Emergency Management, and FSM representatives from the Department of Justice; Department of Foreign Affairs; National Police; Department of Resources and Development; Department of Health and Social Affairs; Department of Finance and Administration; Office of National Archives; Culture and Historical Preservation; the Office of Statistics, Budget, and Economic Management; Overseas Development Assistance; and Compact Management. Also present were representatives from the Chuuk, Yap, Kosrae and Pohnpei State Governments.

Additional participation included representatives from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IX, the International Organization for Migration, U.S. Army Pacific, U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Embassy in FSM, the Micronesia Red Cross Society, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the Asia Foundation, the World Health Organization, and the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC).