Program emphasizes evacuation preparation
Stars and Stripes June 20, 2007
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Whether it’s an earthquake in Japan or an attack in South Korea, bases across the Pacific have plans in place to evacuate all nonessential personnel from harm’s way.
Noncombatant evacuation operations, or NEO, are plans used by the military with one objective: to remove noncombatants from danger quickly and effectively.
Throughout the year, Pacific bases conduct exercises to test their ability to assemble, process and evacuate the tens of thousands of evacuees who would be present should an actual disaster take place.
Part of the NEO system are unit coordinators, who ensure family members and other noncombatants within their unit are properly prepared for a quick departure, said Tracie Hathorn, a NEO officer at Yokota.
Yokota holds training for newly appointed coordinators at least once a month, she said during a class Wednesday.
Knowing what to bring is key, and being prepared means having a well-maintained folder for the whole family, Hathorn said.
"At the bare minimum," she said, the folder should contain passports, identification cards, birth and marriage certificates, citizenship paperwork and veterinary records for any pets.
Hathorn added that only dogs and cats are classified as pets and that they must be transported in animal carriers.
To truly be prepared, Hathorn stressed, wills, powers of attorney, insurance policies, leave and earning statements, shot records and personnel records also should be in the folder.
She added that she has seen some families who keep copies of these documents scanned onto computer thumb drives and stored in their folders.
Another important set of "papers" to keep with the folder is a supply of cash. During an emergency, Hathorn said, there could be no electricity, limiting access to banks and ATMs. She recommends budgeting about $100 per person.
Families also should plan to pack what they would need to survive for three to four days, including clothes, toiletries, medicines and baby formula, she said.
"The bottom line is you are leaving and not planning to return," Hathorn said. "That is why preparation is important."
For more information, contact a unit NEO coordinator.