Fleet Week Sags Even Further: Federal Shutdown Prompts Cancellation Of Disaster Drills

The last remnants of Fleet Week, a series of joint humanitarian assistance and disaster response drills for emergency responders, have been canceled due to the federal government shutdown, city officials said today.

The drills, planned for Oct. 7 through Oct. 11, were canceled because partners in the federal government including the military are no longer available, said said Francis Zamora, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Emergency Management.

Previously: No Air Show, No Parade Of Ships: Scaled Back Fleet Week Begins Monday

While the city continually plans and drills for disaster response on its own, the joint exercises, which have been conducted since 2010, are a critical chance to work with federal agencies, Zamora said.

“We are disappointed that because of the federal shutdown we are going to have to postpone these exercises,” Zamora said.

The drills, most of which were not open to the public, were nearly all that was left of Fleet Week after federal budget cuts led to the cancellation in April of the annual air show and ship parade.

Fleet Week is normally part of one of the busiest times of the year for the city’s hotels, restaurants and tourism operators, according to Jim Lazarus, a senior vice president with San Francisco’s Chamber of Commerce.

Fleet week’s air show and ship parade in particular draw thousands of people to the city’s waterfront areas, including Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, Lazarus said.

Lazarus noted that this has been a good year in general for the city’s hotels, restaurants and retailers, and that that might help cushion them somewhat from the loss of Fleet Week.

“During the recession, Fleet Week was incredibly important,” Lazarus said.

However, the tourism industry is worried, especially given that the government shut down is also affecting popular tourist attractions such as Alcatraz Island, Joe D’Allessandro, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said earlier this week.

To make up for the lack of activity on the waterfront, Pier 39 is hosting fireworks shows at 8:30 p.m. every Saturday this month.

Pier 39 spokeswoman Sue Muzzin said organizers were initially planning to have the fireworks on a single Saturday as part of the pier’s 35th anniversary celebration, but decided to expand them to every Saturday after hearing about Fleet Week being scaled back.

The city will still host a modified Senior Leadership Seminar at the Marines Memorial Club and Hotel on Thursday, Oct. 10, Zamora said.

A veteran’s art exhibit is also scheduled from Oct. 8 to Oct. 13 in the library of the Marines’ Memorial Club at 609 Sutter St.

More information about San Francisco Fleet Week activities can be found online at www.fleetweek.us.

Information about the Pier 39 activities can be found at www.pier39.com.

Sara Gaiser/Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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