Remarks by RADM Salerno, Assist. Commandant on Hurricane Ike

REAR ADMIRAL SALERNO: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Good afternoon. As America’s maritime guardian, the Coast Guard is taking action to protect citizens, critical maritime infrastructure, and our own personnel and assets in the projected path of Hurricane Ike. We’re focused on helping the public and the maritime industry prepare for and evade this life-threatening storm.

Hurricane Ike is a dangerous storm. I echo the comments that you heard from the Secretary of the need for people who are in the protected impact zone to heed evacuation orders. While the Coast Guard stands ready to save lives and protect property, it is unlikely that we can reach anyone in the height of a massive hurricane. The best lifesaving measure that someone living in the impact zone can take is to heed the evacuation order if one is issued.

As you know, Texas ports are vital to the national economy. We are working closely with our port partners to minimize the potential damage to the maritime transportation system and to protect the environment. This includes closing threatened ports, requiring large vessels to put to sea, and requiring any vessels that are not able to put to sea and that must remain in port to follow very strict heavy weather mooring plans.

We have dispatched a number of teams to staging areas in Texas, including four disaster assistance response teams, a transportable multi-agency communications unit, and two dozen command and control specialists to support the joint field office in Austin.

The Coast Guard Cutter Northland has been designated to serve as an offshore command and control platform for post-hurricane response, and there are a total of 21 Coast Guard cutters currently evading the storm and prepositioning themselves to follow in behind the storm and provide lifesaving and other support as needed.

On that last point, the use of Coast Guard assets for immediate post-storm relief was something we saw as recently as last week. When Hurricanes Ike and Hanna devastated Haiti, the Coast Guard Cutter Legare and Coast Guard aircraft quickly responded and provided more than 35 tons of humanitarian supplies to the residents of Gonaïves, who were cut off from the rest of the country by flooding.

In addition, we have been authorized to activate 250 reservists for response operations, if necessary. These additional people will supplement the capabilities of our locally-based forces and our predeployed special teams.

And finally, as the Secretary mentioned, we are conducting pre-storm flights to protect mariners at sea, advise them to seek safe waters, and also to ensure the safety of offshore oil and gas production facilities.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.

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