May 27, 2018
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Disaster drill at BIA a test for Civil Air Patrol

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — When a natural disaster such as a hurricane hits Maine, a number of agencies calmly spring into action.

So how do they know what to do?

They practice, of course.

The Maine branch of the Civil Air Patrol, the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, plans to respond to a simulated hurricane this weekend as part of a regional preparedness exercise. Maine Civil Air Patrol officers will gather Saturday at the Maine Air National Guard base at Bangor International Airport.

“This is actually the first time we’ve done such an exercise on a regional basis,” said Jeff Weinstein, incident commander of the Maine Civil Air Patrol. “We’ll be testing all the elements of our incident command system.”

The most important asset in handling a natural disaster is communication among the many parties involved, and Weinstein said this weekend’s drill will test a new HF-ALE system, which is similar to shortwave radio.

While some of the drill exercises on Saturday have been scheduled well in advance, Weinstein said there will be a number of surprise scenarios that Civil Air Patrol officers must deal with. They could include preparing for any rescue or recovery missions that may be assigned by state or federal authorities in the aftermath of the simulated storm.

Weinstein said the Civil Air Patrol has three primary roles: to conduct search and rescue and disaster relief operations in an emergency; to operate a cadet program for 12- to 18-year-olds; and to facilitate an aerospace program. There are approximately 450 Civil Air Patrol officers in Maine.

“The drills and training in general really helps provide the confidence for when the real thing happens,” Weinstein said. “It also can help point out areas where we might need additional training. But it you’re not constantly immersed in operations, you lose an edge.”

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