Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hurricane Irma News. Final Dispatch from JD Strike in Georgia. LEO perspective on the ground

Below is a report that I received from JD Strike and his experiences in Georgia during and after Hurricane Irma hit.
 I thought about a few more things.  Our County Sheriff’s department handles the rural area outside the main city limits.  Those boys were out in force at the east end where the islands and low lying areas.  I could hear over the radio the guys were doing good things out there trying to assess the storm surge, down trees and such.  They had a lot to deal with closing off roads and trying to get to those who had life threatening emergencies.  They also had to man and establish road blocks during the evacuation to keep the outflow going but to minimize the influx of people creeping around or try to get in from the highway looking for fuel and supplies.

I can’t overstate how lucky we had it.  Everyone was trying to compare the effects of Matthew last year and the shortcomings we had during our response.  We definitely got out in front of it this time.  Unfortunately this brings out a thought.  The hype last year to prepare and evacuate coupled with the effects was one thing which led to this time people preparing but not evacuating.  We definitely had more stay home this storm.  I am afraid the lack of damage this time coupled with the mass medias reporting how much worse this one was going to be, then add in the lack of massive damage to the area as compared to what was projected is only going to give false confidence to the people.  The next storm is going to be telling.  I have a gut feeling most people are going to be complacent and if we get smacked it’s going to be bad.

We had 12 hour operations going with all hands on deck.  This was all our uniformed patrol, our Detectives division and our Vice unit out on the street.  On average we had 30 officers out into 4 beats (sectors)  throughout the city.  Normal operations is an average of 8 per watch for the same 4 Beats.   We had a lot of troops out there.  I have to say we had a decrease in calls for service for Minutiae calls. No barking squirrels, no my neighbors making too much noise and no “my 12 year old is not listening to me” calls.  We had legitimate calls.  Suspicious acts, domestics and of course property crimes.   We focused on property protection through active/ visible patrols at businesses and residential areas.  Lifesaving calls were and always priority, but most calls were not that bad.  Almost all traffic stops were to clear the roadways and inform people of the hazards.  We had a few Drunk drivers but that’s stupid on crack.  No time is good for drunk driving but when there are limited to no cars on the road and we had 30 guys out there, no chance.

Fort Stewart ordered mandatory evacuation on Thursday night to effectively start on Saturday to coincide with the States Evac orders.  This was to be expected for family members and DA civilian workers. I expected the troops would be either Shelter in place or moved inland to another base to be on standby for deployment for relief.  I saw the announcement in the news and a copy of the evacuation order.  What got me was they were sending out the troops and family members out under TDY orders for up to 400 miles away.  You know keep your receipts and do a travel voucher to be reimbursed.  OK I get the force protection motivation along with getting the families out of dodge.  No word on whether they left a contingent to be on standby for emergency deployment.  Later found out they left essential workers on base, MP’s and EOC staff, and maybe a representative for the units to keep eyes on property.   These same troops were coming off base to find places to eat during the curfew.  Talked to a young E-4 MP who said they were essential workers left in place to guard facilities but had no mess capabilities.  Not sure if they were just not eating MRE’s or they had no chow.  Soldier did say they had no mess halls open.  So who knows.  I think about the optics on this one.  You have a regional Major Army base, which in itself gives a sense of security in case something happens, announcing a mass evacuation and closure.  I can tell you the City big wigs have been heard before saying if something really bad happens the Army Base would be there to help.  Not to mention how much the City Officials like to preach how tight knit our relationship is with the Military base.  To me looking in from the outside this was a slap of cold water that they were closing down.  I didn’t see any reassuring messages being put out to us civilians that the base would have any assets available in case the storm was catastrophic.  I Felt no confidence The 3rd ID was here to lend a hand.  Did they have a contingency? I don’t know.  They didn’t advertise or reassure the public with their order to Evacuate.

We did have a rash of Burglary reports that came in overnight based on returning residents.  Again most of these were caused by two legged vultures taking the opportunity DURING the storm.   We didn’t have any reports of home invasions or looting.

Time to get back to work.
If you've been keeping up with this short little series of notes from Law Enforcement Officers on the ground during these events then you'll notice similar themes.

I have a few things that are just turning my wheels...

1.  Ft Hood in Texas and Ft Stewart/Ft Benning in Georgia were capable of deploying massive numbers of troops.  Why weren't they sourced?

2.  Still working thru the thoughts of criminals actually committing crimes during the storms.  If you bug in and hear a bump you can no longer assume its a tree falling in the yard.  If you don't investigate you might be set upon at a time and place NOT of your choosing.

3.  T talked about how they arrived in Houston to give the LEO's there a bit of rest.  JD Strike didn't seem to get that favor.  Why don't the State Bureaus of Law Enforcement or State Police not better coordinate these events?  Those guys have to be dragging after a few days of almost non-stop operations.

4.  Saying it again.  The Federal Govt was just too slow.  Can this be corrected or is it just the way it has to be?

Much more and I'll try and put up a lessons learned or maybe just observations tomorrow.  I don't begin to have half the answers to all the questions I have.

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