EPLOs deploy for hurricane

TYNDALL AFB, Fla. -- The Air Force has deployed eight Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers, or EPLOs, to various parts of the United States and to Puerto Rico as Hurricane Dean becomes an imminent threat.

This deployment was the result of the Federal Emergency Management Agency warning order, and subsequent execute order, according to Colonel Gary Brand, Air Forces Northern National Security Emergency Preparedness (AFNSEP) directorate, Fort McPherson, Ga. The warning order is issued so EPLOs can prepare for when the execute order comes in.

"When the warning order comes in, we stand up a DSCA (Defense Support to Civil Authorities) cell at Fort McPherson, which is manned by local EPLOs who call all 105 of our EPLOs to find out what their response capabilities are," said Col. Brand.

The DSCA cell then begins the planning phase to decide who will be sent when the execute order comes in. The execute order is in response to a FEMA mission assignment that has been validated, the colonel said.

Four teams of two EPLOs each, whose deployments are estimated to last seven to 10 days, will work with the Defense Coordination Officer (DCO) to facilitate Air Force support, in the case of a disaster, when requested by the Federal Coordination Official (FCO), Col. Brand said.

The Teams were deployed to FEMA National Headquarters, Washington, D.C., FEMA Regional Coordination Centers in New York and Texas, and to the Virgin Island/Puerto Rico area.

Air Force EPLOs provide the FCO with knowledge of Air Force medical assets, airlift capabilities, housing sources, civil engineering functions, etc., that are available to aid the civilian community during a disaster, and the dollar amount each asset would cost FEMA.

The FCO is then responsible for the decision as to what DOD help is needed. That decision is then routed to FEMA headquarters for funding.

Once it's funded, the Defense Secretary is the approving authority for use of those DOD assets, and then responsible for sourcing the appropriate command to provide the help needed, Col. Brand said.

These EPLOs, as their title states, are prepared for emergencies. They train for contingency operations, and continue networking and building relationships in local communities so when the execute order is issued, they will be a ready. They are a trusted DOD presence to civilian authorities, at a moment's notice, during times of disaster.