Coast Guard, partners conduct mass rescue tabletop exercise in Saipan

U.S. Coast Guard Station Apra Harbor participates in a coordinated a Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) exercise for emergency responders in Saipan, Sept. 18, 2019. The service partners with multiple agencies to safeguard lives and prepare for emergency scenarios. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Sector Guam/Released)

U.S. Coast Guard Station Apra Harbor participates in a coordinated a Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) exercise for emergency responders in Saipan, Sept. 18, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Sector Guam)

SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam coordinated a Mass Rescue Operation (MRO) tabletop exercise for emergency responders in Saipan, Sept. 18.

The day-long training held at the CNMI Homeland Security Emergency Management (HSEM) Emergency Operations Center brought together federal, local, public, and government agencies to exercise mass rescue operation capabilities.

“It is important to exercise the coordination of mass rescue operations with our partners,” said Ms. Denise Cruz, Coast Guard Sector Guam emergency management specialist. “The exercise brought together local, federal, private, and non-governmental organizations to discuss procedures and techniques required to coordinate and execute a successful maritime search and rescue operation. Our number one priority is to save lives, and for that; we must understand each agency’s capabilities. Getting to know who we work with and how to work together defines the term One Marianas.”

As a result of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, the world’s maritime nations developed a framework to promote minimum safety standards for merchant and passenger vessels. Coupled with that prevention effort is a response framework to support the effective rescue of multiple passengers and crew. As illustrated by the responders in this exercise, the operation extends to aviation in areas with coastal communities and high air traffic.

“The biggest challenge for an MRO is the remoteness,” said Lt. Cmdr. Victoria Saxon, Sector Guam emergency management/force readiness chief. “Throughout the region, we have many areas with limited response capabilities. It can be several hours or days for an air or surface asset to arrive on the scene. That’s why regional partnerships and the use of the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System (AMVER), a volunteer commercial vessel search and rescue resource is so important.”

Participants worked across jurisdictions and authorities utilizing the Incident Command System to exercise operational and logistical response plans. The emergency operations center was activated during the exercise, just as it would be in a real event.

Federal, state, military, and civilian emergency responders from CNMI and Guam participated in a day-long course led by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Participating agencies included:

  • CNMI Homeland Security Emergency Management
  • CNMI Customs
  • United Airlines
  • American Red Cross, Federal Aviation Administration
  • Pacific Oriental Inc. Aviation
  • T’way Air Co., Asiana Airlines Inc.
  • Commonwealth Ports Authority
  • Airport Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting
  • Department of Fire and Emergency Management
  • Marianas Visitors Authority
  • Saipan Marine Dive Co.
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality
  • Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.
  • CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife
  • Transportation Security Administration
  • U.S. Navy, Joint Region Marianas
  • Coast Guard 14th District
  • Coast Guard Sector Guam
  • Coast Guard Station Apra Harbor

“This joint service and multi-agency exercise with our partners in the CNMI was an excellent opportunity to maximize our combined readiness to respond to mass rescue operations throughout the region,” said Cmdr. Joshua Empen, deputy sector commander, Coast Guard Sector Guam.

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