Operation Vigilant Guard to Commence May 15

Adjutant General Deborah Howell, left, and VITEMA Director Mona Barnes join Governor Mapp to announce Vigilant Guard details.

More than 1,000 military personnel and first responders will be in the Territory next week to participate in the Vigilant Guard 2017 full scale disaster simulation exercises coordinated by the U.S. Northern Command.

The United States Northern Command, or NorthCom, is tasked with conducting homeland defense, civil support and security operations to defend and secure the United States and its interests. Each year four state governments work with NorthCom to conduct major response drills for emergencies – Georgia, California and New Mexico are the other jurisdictions conducting exercises this year.

“In a major disaster we know that our local responders will be overwhelmed and we will need to reach out to our federal and military partners for life saving resources,” Governor Kenneth E. Mapp said. “Overall, the exercise allows us to identify our strengths and our weaknesses and our gaps in emergency response operations.”

The Governor outlined what is expected to take place May 15-19 during a Monday morning press conference at Government House, St. Croix.

The exercise will simulate a full-scale response to the effects of a tsunami, which will have been generated by a sizeable earthquake, causing major damage on St. Thomas and moderate damage on St. Croix.

Participants in the disaster simulation include National Guard and other military components, FEMA personnel and local first responders. They will begin to arrive on island this week.

“You will see folks out and about in uniform,” the Governor said. “We ask you not to be alarmed, but to recognize that we are strengthening our partnerships with our military and our federal disaster responders to ensure that in the event of actual disaster we are all coordinated with how we will respond.”

The Governor and Lt. Governor Osbert Potter will take part in the exercises. The chief executive will be “strategically placed” to exercise the authority of the Governor’s office as required. Declaring a State of Emergency and requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration are among the Governor’s initial responsibilities.

The exercises will commence with an alert from the tsunami sirens at 8 a.m. on May 15. Mass search and rescue, evacuation, shelter planning, riot control, response to unknown substances and distribution of emergency supplies are among the drills planned. These exercises and other disaster trainings will be held at various sites throughout the Territory.

The Governor asked that residents be aware of the drills taking place and to make an effort to show the military and other personnel here for Vigilant Guard 2017 “a warm Virgin Islands welcome.”

“I ask all of the members of the community for their cooperation,” he said.