FEMA administrator visits Hurricane Hunters

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kimberly Erickson
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs
Craig Fugate, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, visited the Air Force Reserve Command's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron April 29 to address hurricane preparedness as the June 1 storm season approaches.

"The Air Force does a lot for FEMA," Mr. Fugate said in an address to the 53rd WRS Hurricane Hunters.  "(You're) part of the Department of Defense team that supports us as we support the needs of state and local government."

Response by emergency management services, such as FEMA, is directly affected by the weather data the Hurricane Hunters collect to increase forecasting accuracy, Mr. Fugate said.

"From the standpoint of FEMA, the better the forecast is, the better the decisions we make, particularly when it comes to evacuation decision making," he said.

Evacuation practices in that critical decision-making response time ultimately affect how a community responds to natural disaster, Mr. Fugate said.

"The National Hurricane Center can give a much more accurate forecast with the data these aircraft provide," he said of the WC-130J Hercules, "to the point where the NHC can give more lead times for hurricane warnings and watches by a factor of over 12 hours."

Mr. Fugate said that benefiting from better forecasting hinges on community preparedness.

"No matter how good the forecast is, if people aren't ready and aren't prepared, you can't change the outcome," he said.

"People will always want to know how many hurricanes will happen," Mr. Fugate said. "The question is, are you ready for the hurricane that may threaten your community?"

For those supporting emergency management, making sure their families are ready is critical to allowing the focus to be on taking care of American citizens in their time of need, he said.

Extending that approach to the community can affect the outcome of natural disaster.

"Going into hurricane season, everyone needs to plan like their community could be affected," Mr. Fugate said.

During his tour of the 53rd WRS, he said it's the people who operate the equipment, not just the equipment, who make the mission.

"We focus on the aircraft and facilities on these tours, but it's the dedication and hard work of these folks that allow them to provide the data they collect when they're looking at forecast models," Mr. Fugate said.

Over the past 20 years, that data has resulted in a reduction of average forecasting time from five days to 72 hours.

In addition to stressing the importance of hurricane preparedness, Mr. Fugate spoke about the roots of the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter mission.

"I was impressed that Mr. Fugate was as knowledgeable and well versed about our background as he was," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Talbot, a veteran 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer. "If you don't understand something, you can't make recommendations for how to make it better in the future, and his understanding further solidified my belief of his interest in the future of our mission."

"No one knows how many hurricanes or missions the Hurricane Hunters will fly this year," Mr. Fugate said. "But we do know that without them, we would not have the most accurate forecast the hurricane center could give us."