On Monday, July 30, at exactly 4:30 a.m., we know for certain that a category three hurricane will hit Rhode Island and will cause catastrophic damage and will quickly overwhelm state resources. We know this because the hurricane strike will mark the start of Vigilant Guard, a state-wide exercise designed to simulate the challenges of managing the effects of a hurricane hitting Rhode Island.
"We are right in the middle of hurricane season," said Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) Executive Director Theresa C. Murray. "August and September are the months when a hurricane is most likely to strike our state. Vigilant Guard is the perfect opportunity to practice for this weather-related disaster that could easily become a reality for Rhode Island "
RIEMA will test its cooperative agreements with the Rhode Island National Guard, as the first military responder in support of the Governor and to RIEMA, when other State resources are depleted or overwhelmed. More than 1,100 National Guard troops from Rhode Island and surrounding states will be participating.
A category three hurricane has sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph and can cause storm surges of nine to 12 feet. As a point of comparison, the Hurricane of 1938 that devastated Rhode Island was a category three hurricane. Debris removal, flash flooding, and extended power outages are just some of the impacts the state could expect to see.
"One of the primary goals of this exercise is to strengthen our existing relationships with federal, state, and local partners," said Murray. "We want to practice utilizing the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a mutual aid agreement between states that allows resource sharing during natural and man-made disasters. During any large-scale disaster, we would need to rely on resources from many different places. It truly takes a whole community to mount an effective response."
The exercise will also demonstrate the capabilities of the Rhode Island National Guard Joint Force Headquarters and the Joint Task Force-Rhode Island.