Preparing for the unexpected can mean life or death
July 19, 2013
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Interior Alaska is known for winter storms, whether it is the unimaginable stints of sub-zero cold, freezing rain causing treacherous footing and tricky driving or heavy blankets of snow; the focus to take precautions tends to be October through March. But being prepared for anything, anytime, anywhere can facilitate survival.
According to the National Weather Service, Americans live in the most severe-weather-prone country on Earth. And although we live in a location where hurricanes are rare, Mother Nature can cook up other types of mayhem.
It is said that weather disasters in the United States account for around 500 deaths and nearly $14 billion in damage each year. Americans can expect to face an average of 100,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes and two deadly hurricanes making landfall in the same time period.
"And this doesn't even include intense summer heat or winter cold, high winds, wildfires or other deadly weather impacts. U.S. Army installations are impacted by the same severe weather, directly affecting Army property, personnel and mission," said Jason McLendon, Installation Management Command Provost Marshall and Protection Office.
U.S. Army IMCOM's goal is to ensure that that every garrison is prepared for severe weather -- maximizing safety and minimizing damage.
In July 2012, the IMCOM Provost Marshal Protection Office sent a memorandum to Region Emergency Management coordinators and Garrison Emergency managers encouraging the expansion of IMCOM's stateside installations (including Alaska and Hawaii) participating in the National Weather Service StormReady certification program.
NWS StormReady is a nationwide program to help communities, universities and installations better protect their citizens, students, Soldiers, Families and workforce during severe weather incidents.
"We are working on the process of being storm-ready," said Russ Ackerman, emergency manager, Fort Wainwright Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
This program encourages communities and military installations to take a proactive approach to improve local preparation and readiness for hazardous weather conditions. StormReady provides emergency managers with clear-cut guidelines on how to improve their hazardous weather operations along with providing recommended local procedures designed to reduce the potential for disastrous, weather-related consequences.
Eleven IMCOM garrisons have completed the NWS process for "StormReady" certification so far: Carlisle Barracks, Detroit Arsenal, Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, Fort Campbell, Fort Knox, Fort Leavenworth, Fort Rucker, Fort Sill, Rock Island Arsenal and Camp Humphreys, Korea.
"To be officially StormReady," Ackerman said, "a community must establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center, have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public, create a system that monitors weather conditions locally and promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars." In addition the community must develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. "We are still coordinating plans and working on the training, and exercises," Ackerman said.
In the past few months, Americans have experienced several severe storms. Oklahoma has had multiple tornados this year, with severe financial damage and almost 100 lives lost. In Mississippi, ice storms and tornados left thousands without power and several dead. Texas tornados killed at least six people. In March of 2013, AccuWeather's long range forecasters predicted a severe storm season during the mid-spring and early summer of this year.
"It looks like everybody is going to be vulnerable to severe weather this year from the Gulf of Mexico in early April up to the Midwest by late in the spring and early summer," said Accuweather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.
The best way to save lives during a severe weather event is to be prepared as much as possible, which includes ensuring the proper planning, education and awareness exist throughout the community.
For more information on the StormReady program, visit www.stormready.noaa.gov. Call IMCOM's point of contact for StormReady at (210) 466-0518 or contact Ackerman at 353-9755.