CBP Resumes Business as Usual: Processing Flights, Ships in Wake of Irene
Thousands of flights were cancelled or diverted stranding business and vacation travelers around the world. Merchant vessels shipping commercial goods and petroleum products to the U.S. were ordered to sea or saw arrivals delayed. Consumers depleted store shelves of water, batteries, canned goods and other essential sustaining products. Citizens boarded up coastal residences and crossed their fingers.
Hurricanes can have a dramatic impact on human behavior. It can also have an alarming impact on our nation's economy.
It's for that very reason that one of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's primary missions during hurricane response and recovery is reconstituting business operations.
"It is vital to our economic recovery that we resume business operations as quickly as possible to once again facilitate the free flow of international trade and passengers," said Michael J. Lovejoy, CBP director of field operations in Baltimore and the agency's lead field coordinator for FEMA Region Three. "CBP has been working diligently with the U.S. Coast Guard, airport and seaport facility operators, airlines, and trade stakeholders to ensure that we can operate safely. We are open for business."
One key to resuming operations is the degree of hurricane impact to CBP port facilities and to employees' residences. It can be difficult to properly focus on work as critical as border security when employees face issues at home, such as leaky roofs, contaminated water supplies, power loss and general family safety and comfort.
Hurricanes Ike, Katrina and Rita proved to be much more destructive storms than Irene. CBP port facilities were damaged following those storms and it took several days to resume normal operations. Irene, though much greater in size than those three storms, proved less destructive.
"We have been very successful concentrating on being open for business and accomplishing our national security mission," said Joseph Mellia, chief patrol agent for Houlton Sector and acting CBP lead field coordinator in FEMA Region 1. "We continue to assist our employees in recovering from the effects of Irene."
CBP activated incident command posts to conduct response and recovery operations. Those operations included satisfying FEMA mission assignments and to address CBP employee needs.
As of Aug. 29, the posts documented 179 "CBP helping CBP" mission assignments in region two, 73 missions in region three, 18 in region one and eight in region four.
"Our folks generally suffered minimal impact from Irene," said Lovejoy. "Some downed trees, some power outages and some flooding like most citizens in our communities, but overall CBP employees made out better than we could have anticipated. We're ready to get back to the work of protecting our homeland and our citizens."
Since Hurricane Irene first threatened the Outer Banks in North Carolina on Aug. 27, airports suspended operations, falling like dominoes, from south to north along the East Coast, and the Coast Guard captains of the port ordered seaports closed and ships to sea.
Just two days later, CBP announced that officers and agriculture specialists in a majority of airports and seaport returned to duty and were ready to process flights and ships.
CBP was once again open for business.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.