With hurricane season underway, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is prepared to support authorized shoppers during the most challenging times.
2019 proved to be a quieter season than 2018, with three major hurricanes last year. When Hurricane Dorian struck the Caribbean and the Carolinas in August and September, the Exchange shipped nearly 150,000 emergency supplies to stores, allowing most Exchanges and Expresses from Florida to Virginia to stay open. Despite last year’s lull, the Exchange is preparing for the worst while hoping for the best this year.
“The Exchange is all in to serve, especially during disasters,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, the Exchange’s senior enlisted advisor. “Should our stores be affected by a hurricane, we have internal processes in place and the experience to ensure water, batteries, flashlights, generators and other critical supplies are pushed to areas they are most needed.”
The Exchange Disaster Support Group (DSG) meets before hurricane season to review existing plans and guidance. The DSG connects departments across the organization for clear and concise communication plus decision making to quickly deploy support.
The Exchange stands ready with mobile field exchanges (MFEs) to deploy at command request to serve military first responders if a hurricane makes landfall. An MFE is an Exchange on wheels, a 53-foot trailer stocked with emergency supplies, toiletries, snacks and drinks. In 2018, an MFE was sent to Tyndall Air Force Base and was the only store open within miles after Hurricane Michael devastated the installation.
“No other retailer does what the Exchange does,” Reyes said. “The Exchange stands ready to provide a ray of sunshine in the wake of a natural disaster and bring a bit of comfort and normalcy to an otherwise dire situation.”