Today, I want to highlight one of the ways DOT is helping America's coastal regions cope with severe weather -- particularly during this hurricane season. While I've often talked about the superb job DOT's Maritime Administration does to support waterborne transportation and commercial activity at America's ports, not many people know that MARAD also maintains a fleet of stand-by cargo ships that can assist during natural disasters.
This fleet of vessels is called the Ready Reserve Force, and its primary responsibility is to transport Army and Marine Corps equipment, combat support equipment, and supplies to US troops at a moment's notice, before commercial ships can arrive. Anywhere it’s needed, at any time.
Because of their rapid deployment capabilities, Ready Reserve ships can also help communities prepare for hurricanes and recover from disaster. Small maintenance crews stand ready to load cargo onboard and house first responders with very little notice before a mjaor storm arrives. We call this program "SafeStor," and, especially during hurricane season, many ports welcome this secure storage capability.
Our Ready Reserve vessels offer a safe haven for essential personnel, equipment, and emergency food and medical aid needed to get affected areas up and running as soon as possible. Typically, local emergency management organizations use SafeStor to ensure their rescue boats, skid mounted helicopters, and vehicles--like fire trucks and road-clearing euqipment--will be available without delay once a storm passes.
It all comes together to create an ideal location for local first responders and their equipment to ride out a big storm.
For example, two weeks ago, when Hurricane Irene was bearing down on Charleston, SC, we received requests from various local agencies to “SafeStor” their equipment onboard the six Ready Reserve ships in the Port of Charleston. Officials from the the Charleston Police Department, the North Charleston Police Department, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Department, and the Charleston County Rescue Squad incorporated the Cape Edmont into their preparations.
Since Irene moved north, these emergency plans weren't carried out this time, but even now, as we watch the remnants of two other storms and begin to monitor the development of two new ones, ports like Charleston are happy to include Maritime Administration Ready Reserve ships and SafeStor capabilities in their disaster planning.