Coast Guard prepares to save lives, protect property

Coast Guard Headquarters NewsWASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard spent Friday moving personnel and assets to be ready to respond as Hurricane Irene churned up the eastern seaboard.

Units from the 1st, 5th and 7th Coast Guard Districts implemented their hurricane plans, moving command elements, response vessels and aircraft and personnel out of Irene’s path while at the same time warning professional mariners and others on the water of approaching danger.

In addition to the aviation assets stationed along the East Coast, which are poised to respond to life-saving, pollution and disaster response missions, the Coast Guard has the ability to surge 18 more MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, six MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters, three HC-144A Ocean Sentry long-range reconnaissance planes, six HC-130 Hercules cargo planes and two HU-25 Falcon jets, from air stations located around the country.

Coast Guard Captains of the Port from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Portland, Maine, are setting port conditions for 46 U.S. ports to protect maritime infrastructure, port facilities, merchant vessels and the maritime transportation system from the dangers of Hurricane Irene.

Coast Guard Disaster Assistance Response Teams are moving into staging areas in anticipation of the flooding that will come with Irene’s forecasted heavy rains. A total of six of these seven-person teams, equipped with three shallow-water boats per team plus flood response equipment, are being deployed to staging areas.

“We need people to follow the orders of local officials and evacuate when ordered,” said Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, chief of media relations for the U.S. Coast Guard. “We safeguard our personnel and assets in advance of the storm so that we can respond as soon as safely possible. If you remain in an area under a mandatory evacuation order, you do so at your own peril – at the height of a storm our ability to conduct rescues may be diminished and we very well may not be able to get help to you.”

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