Civil Air Patrol volunteers help assess hurricane damage

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Civil Air Patrol members are at work in Florida, helping assess damage from Hurricane Frances. More CAP aircraft and people are on standby to move into affected areas as soon as weather permits.

Seven CAP ground teams are working with the Florida National Guard and Florida Department of Transportation in the Palm Beach area assessing damage to identify the areas most critically affected by the storm. With widespread loss of electricity, the teams are communicating with operations centers by radio and satellite phones.

“Once weather clears enough to allow us to fly, we anticipate using our satellite-transmitted digital imagery systems to capture images of the affected areas from the air,” said Maj. Gen. Dwight Wheless, CAP national commander.

The system allows CAP members to capture images from the air with digital cameras, download them to laptop computers onboard the aircraft and transmit the high-resolution images via satellite phone and e-mail. The aerial photographs help emergency relief agencies plan and prioritize rescue, repair and cleanup efforts. CAP officials provided the service successfully during Hurricane Charley weeks ago.

As Frances moved through Florida, CAP officials moved the digital imagery system aircraft to a standby position in Columbia, S.C.

CAP, the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is working Frances-related missions under the direction of the Air Force National Security Emergency Preparedness Office, U.S. Northern Command and 1st Air Force. The CAP National Operations Center here is coordinating missions and strategy to best use CAP assets in states surrounding the affected sites.

CAP currently has members onsite at Florida emergency operations centers in Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Naples. Members are also providing communications support in Indian River County.