MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - As Hurricane Gustav moves closer to the Gulf Coast of the United States, Civil Air Patrol members are making preparations to safeguard CAP assets and preparing to respond to requests for assistance after the storm makes landfall.
Gustav is forecast to enter the Gulf of Mexico this weekend and it could impact the gulf states by early next week. The storm is projected to move in a northwesterly direction but it is too early to tell specifically where landfall will occur.
According to CAP's national commander, Maj. Gen. Amy S. Courter, the all-volunteer organization is prepared. CAP's National Operations Center has issued an alert order for wings in the organization's Southeast and Southwest regions to update resource lists, aircraft lists and alert rosters, initiate communications checks and test specialized assets as the storm approaches.
On Friday, CAP's Texas and Mississippi wings were relocating assets, including planes, vehicles and equipment owned by the all-volunteer organization. The Alabama Wing was making preparations as well.
"Alabama Wing has activated a mission command staff and is identifying aircrew, ground team, urban direction finding (UDF) team and mission staff members who are available for a one- or two-week tour after the storm makes landfall," said Maj. John P. Neil, director of operations for the wing.
"In the meantime, members there are making sure all equipment, vehicles and aircraft are ready for a possible deployment," Neil said, adding this includes making sure that 24-hour packs and aircrew packs are stocked with fresh water, snacks and change of clothing, all batteries are charged or there are fresh ones for the radios, DF-units or GPS units, and the aircraft and vehicles are full.
Capt. Steven Solomon, director of public affairs for CAP's Southeast Region, said the organization's Florida Wing also is on the move, directing its Groups 1 and 2 RECON trained members to be ready, if needed.
The preparations along the Gulf Coast are being made as CAP encourages its 56,000 members nationwide to observe National Preparedness Month (NPM) in September. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security annually sponsors National Preparedness Month as a nationwide effort to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools. Throughout the month, the Department of Homeland Security will work with Civil Air Patrol and other organizations to highlight the importance of emergency preparedness planning.
According to Courter, CAP is a National Preparedness Month coalition member, encouraging members and their communities to participate in NPM's Ready Campaign, which emphasizes four main focus areas:
-- Get a kit.
-- Make a plan.
-- Be informed.
-- Get involved.
"There are many opportunities to participate in National Preparedness Month, and we encourage all members and their communities to check out all the tools and ideas available," said Courter, referring them to the Ready Campaign Web site, www.ready.gov.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 56,000 members nationwide. CAP performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 103 lives in fiscal year 2007. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counter-drug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the nearly 22,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for more than 66 years.