Irene Spares Southeast U.S.; Miami CBP Deploys Recovery Team to New Jersey
Hurricane Irene preparations and recovery efforts for CBP operations in Region IV initially concentrated on the Caribbean and South Florida areas. Puerto Rico was the first area to be hit. The storm dropped heavy rain and caused some power outages. The homes of a few CBP employees were damaged. But CBP teams on the island worked with local partners to resume the CBP mission with minimal delay.
Region IV Lead Field Coordinator Matthew Zetts, the chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector, opened the Region IV command center in the sector headquarters building just as Irene began to bear down on the Bahamas.
CBP officials in Freeport and Nassau executed their evacuation plan well ahead of the storm, sending 26 CBP employees and their families to safety in Atlanta. Four CBP employees remained in Freeport and 14 remained in Nassau as Irene roared through the string of islands.
Soon after the storm passed, the remaining skeleton crew worked out a plan with local authorities to resume pre-clearance operations as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the evacuated employees in Atlanta reported for duty there.
As the storm moved northward, Zetts and the Region IV response team breathed a small sigh of relief for Florida, but soon turned their concern to the small CBP operation located in Wilmington, N.C.
Predictions showed Irene possibly causing heavy damage in the Wilmington area and disrupting CBP operations normally conducted by a dedicated crew of seven employees. Region IV planners worked with the Wilmington employees to ensure they were fully prepared.
When it became apparent that Irene would have an impact further north, Zetts authorized the deployment of a 10-person recovery team of CBP employees.
The group traveled from Miami in a convoy of vehicles that carried a full complement of recovery supplies and equipment. Late Saturday evening the team arrived in Newark, N.J. and is currently working with CBP's Region II LFC team on recovery efforts in that area.
"I am extremely proud of the way the Region IV team performed during this situation," said Zetts. "Puerto Rico and the Bahamas had a rough ride for a while but they showed effective organic preparation and recovery efforts to minimize the storm's impact on operations. And the rest of the Region IV joint team came together with the other regions to seamlessly to stay ahead of Irene as she threatened the entire east coast. These efforts show how the CBP team pulls together in a crisis to ensure the safety of employees and family members while always working toward the resumption of operations as quickly as possible."
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.