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Homeland Security

Navy Supports Colorado Wild Fires through NELPO Program

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120713-09

By Patrick Foughty, Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A Navy emergency preparedness liaison officer (NEPLO), deployed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VIII Response Coordination Center (RRCC) in Denver in support of the Colorado Wild fires Jun 28 - July 5.

While there, Capt. Art Glynn was fully integrated with FEMA; Department of Defense, Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) personnel including Navy and Air Force emergency preparedness liaison officers (EPLOs) and various federal agencies to coordinate the federal response to fight the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires and the assist with recovery efforts afterwards.

"My responsibility was to support effective information flow and ensure all parties were aware of our (DoD's) capabilities," said Glynn, "not for just Navy but for all of DoD, to get an idea from DoD perspective of what the needs were and start working what possible solutions we might be able to provide."

Those solutions mainly came in the form of Air Force C-130s Hercules equipped with the Mobile Air FireFighting System (MAFFS), a self-contained unit used for aerial firefighting that can be loaded onto a military cargo transport, which then allows the aircraft to be used as an air tanker against wildfires.

Glynn explained that while the Navy did not provide any specific operational assets that his presence was part of a FEMA pre-scripted mission assignment to deploy Defense coordinating officers (DCOs) and DCE upon request. Embedded in the DCE are emergency preparedness liaison officers from each of the services.

Glynn explained why the Navy's presence was important.

"I'm often asked why we need the Navy in the Midwest, and my reply is this, a NEPLO represents not just the Navy, but all DoD. We don't forget we are Navy, but in this environment we must provide a unified voice; Joint, interagency and whole of society - which includes the private sector - must act as one in the effort to respond to an emergency or disaster."

NEPLOs spend much of their time throughout the year preparing to respond to events and building relationships that will be needed when and if an emergency occurs, Glynn added, "the strength of NEPLOs (and all EPLOs) is the ability to establish a trusted network and develop rapid report so that we can communicate with a unified voice. The ability to build relationships from what we call phase zero, basically, when nothing is happening and when everything is normal, so that when we do get the call (for an emergency) we are able to provide a seamless response that is a unity of government and unity of community response."

A resident of Colorado Springs, one of the cities severely impacted the by the fires, Glynn said he felt a sense of purpose when he was providing assistance in the RRCC.

"I remember seeing the plume of smoke and thinking the local firefighters would take care of it, and then it quickly grew to become the most devastating fire in Colorado history," said Glynn, "getting to be part of the solution and knowing the relationships I'd built throughout the year were making our efforts more effective really drove home the importance of this program." The fire, which is fully contained as of July 12, scorched more than 29 square miles of land and caused at least $15 million in damage.

The NEPLO program, managed by Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), was established to coordinate mutual service and DoD support for national security emergency preparedness, response to natural or man-made disasters, and other domestic emergencies.

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