FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Thursday is the first day of hurricane season. Emergency workers predict a busy one, with 19 named storms expected by experts. Many of those are projected on the East Coast, not in the Gulf of Mexico.
Last year, civilian agencies needed the military's help. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Fort Bragg played a bigger role than many expected. The 82nd Airborne deployed to the Gulf to help survivors and patrol streets.
Now, with the threat of another stormy year, Fort Bragg is coming up with a plan based on lessons learned last time. If the soldiers get the call, they say they have three goals: deploy sooner, communicate better with civilians, and make sure everyone's on the same page.
Last hurricane season, soldiers and civilians used different maps. The miscommunication slowed things down. They also used different systems to relay information, and sometimes agencies did not receive messages.
"The bottom line is, after Hurricane Katrina last year, it's evident that there's going to be more of a reliance on the military than ever before," said LTC Patrick Stevens, who is in charge of this year's hurricane plan.
And more specifically, Stevens said the 82nd Airborne would be a vital part of hurricane relief, even though the paratroopers see more combat than civil affairs missions.
"We have found in the military that our role is more and more, as time progresses, more of a dual role, that of being a war fighter and also providing humanitarian assistance," said Stevens.
Fort Bragg is also getting ready at home in case a hurricane hits the Army post. The post has four 911 centers -- one each for police, fire, EMS, and security. Soldiers plan to merge them into one room, called a Super-911 Center. Bragg expects to shave an average of 30 seconds off response times.