FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Fort Benning tests its “giant voice” mass warning notification system at noon Saturday to help residents prepare for tornado and hurricane seasons.

The test occurs every Saturday and coincides with Muscogee County’s sirens, said Terry Wydra, installation emergency manager at Fort Benning.

Fort Benning emergency management operations specialist Tina Sandell said residents should take the sirens seriously and take shelter immediately if they hear the sirens at any time other than when the tests are being exercised. The safest places are usually a center room or hallway without windows.

The sirens will go off in the case of a tornado warning, which means there has been a tornado spotted by an eyewitness or by Doppler radar, according to the National Weather Service. This is different from a watch where “conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms producing tornadoes.”

Sandell said to stay away from open spaces because of flying debris, as well as underneath bridge overpasses which can create a “wind tunnel” where horizontal winds can actually increase.

“Fort Benning has 24/7 weather observation, and we have support from the (Lawson Army) airfield, as well as the National Weather Service,” Wydra said.

The sirens can also be used to give emergency instructions, said Jeff Shuck, chief of installation plans and operations at Fort Benning. In the future, he said he hopes the “giant voice” can be used for other emergency warnings.

“We are still putting poles up where there are sound gaps so the speech is not off, and then the messages can be more clear,” he said.

Fort Benning also uses an automatic calling system called “the communicator” to notify installation units and organizations of severe weather. Those who receive the call respond by following message instructions.

“We can even track everyone that responds in order to get a good idea of who else we need to reach,” Wydra said.

The last tornado to affect the area was April 16, Sandell said. While there were no injuries, 22 vehicles and numerous structures were reported damaged.

Tornado season is generally March 1 through Aug. 31, Sandell said, and hurricane season begins today.

Emergency checklist:
A good way to prepare your family for an emergency is to have an emergency kit that includes enough supplies to meet your essential needs (food, clothing, shelter, medical supplies) for at least three days. Keep a kit prepared at home, and consider having kits in your car and at work. These kits will enable you and your family to quickly respond to an emergency.

Suggested items to consider for a home emergency kit:

Water: at least one gallon per person a day.

Food: nonperishable items that do not require cooking and will maintain freshness for several months such as energy bars, freeze-dried foods and dehydrated foods.

Formula and diapers

Supplies and documents for any pets

Manual can opener


Battery-powered weather radio

Battery-powered cell phone charger

Extra batteries

First-aid kit with dust masks, rated to at least N95, disinfectant and prescription medications

Sanitation supplies

Your family emergency plan, local maps and your command reporting information

Keep important documents in watertight packaging and store copies in a separate location such as a safety deposit box.

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Page last updated Wed June 1st, 2011 at 11:26