Preparedness key to hurricane safety
May 31, 2013
Whether it's flash floods or power outages, prepared and informed community members will help the garrison recover from any weather emergency during the 2013 hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Personnel should take measures such as building emergency kits, developing contact lists and determining safe shelter locations. These precautions will help the entire garrison maintain resiliency, according to Mario Sumter, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security emergency management specialist.
"Preparedness provides us the capability to bounce back from weather emergencies," Sumter said. "If community members have the necessary items, it gives them the ability to sustain themselves for a good period of time."
Hurricanes are capable of producing winds that exceed 155 miles per hour, tornadoes, storm surges, floods and damage from coastlines to several hundred miles inland. Excessive rain can trigger flash flooding, landslides or mudslides due to heavy rainfall occurring over a relatively short period of time.
Storm systems with sustained winds of 50 knots or greater are considered hurricanes, according to Chris Kim, Operating Location-Oscar, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Fort Belvoir Weather Operations superintendent. Belvoir's weather operations tracks incoming storms and suggest hurricane condition levels to the garrison Information Operation Center.
"If we think it's going to hit us, we send out weather emails which provide updates to the IOC," Kim said. "We're responsible for making sure our local customers have adequate information."
Community members with emergency plans are best prepared to handle hurricanes, Sumter said. Prepare emergency kits filled with necessities, such as 72 hours worth of non-perishable food, water and medicine, for each person in a household. Community members should also have batteries, a working radio, a first aid kit, a can opener, spare eyeglasses, pet food and cash. Families should have emergency response plans for the household, with emergency evacuation plans, shelter locations and contact information.
National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2013 runs through June 1. The Commonwealth of Virginia is honoring this occasion by hosting a sales tax free holiday now until Friday. During this period, purchases of supplies and equipment such as batteries, flashlights and cell phone chargers will be exempt from sales tax.
"A good kit helps servicemembers and Families be prepared for any hazardous event," Sumter said. "Set-up a kit and makes sure it's ready."
Property owners should also review their insurance coverage with their agent -- including flood insurance -- to ensure they'll be adequately protected in the event of a storm. Flood insurance is available through approximately 85 insurance companies in more than 22,000 participating communities nationwide and is available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/renters, and commercial owners/renters, according to a press release by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers, and the property's flood risk. Individuals can learn more about their flood risk and flood insurance options by visiting www.floodsmart.gov or calling 800-427-2419.
During a hurricane, stay indoors during the storm and avoid areas near windows and glass doors. Seek shelter in a small interior room, closet or hallway in the home's lowest level. The Belvoir community should follow evacuation plans, if advised to do so by garrison emergency personnel or local authorities. In the case of severe weather, the installation will communicate with residents using email (Listserv), social media (Fort Belvoir Facebook and Twitter), Belvoir AM radio (1610 AM) and the (703) 805-3030 information hotline phone number.
Residents and workers on post should monitor at least one of these communication outlets for updates on the installation's status with regards to openings and closings due to severe weather.
Visit www.acsim.army.mil/readyarmy/Hurricane_Fact_Sheet.pdf for more information on hurricane safety.
Visit www.tax.virginia.gov/site.cfm?alias=HurricanePreparednessEquipmentHoliday for more information of Virginia's sales tax holiday.