KINGSPORT, Tenn. -- During the Kingsport Safety Council's April meeting, Bruce Cole, manager of natural resources for Holston Army Ammunition Plant, shared his valuable knowledge of natural hazards and tips on preparing for the spring season.

The Kingsport Safety Council is a group of emergency responders, law enforcement officers, medical personnel, and other local officials who meet monthly to discuss public safety issues. The group also holds events which increase public safety awareness.

"The KSC is a valuable resource in the community," Gene Faxon, safety and occupational health specialist for HSAAP and member of the KSC remarked. "We are lucky to have Mr. Cole share his expertise to help us all have a safer spring and summer."

Cole began his presentation by describing local poisonous plants.

"Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are the main three plants we have to watch out for. However, poison sumac is not very common around here," Cole explained.

Cole also provided photographs of the various poisonous plants for clarification.

"Poison ivy can take on many different forms," Cole said, indicating the various leaf structures and the appearance of the plant.

"What you need to know about these plants is that their oil is what irritates you. Your body's immune system reacts with the oil to create a rash," Cole continued. "Some people's immune systems react more strongly than others."

Cole then explained how to prevent exposure to these plants, as well as how to treat the rash when exposure occurs, recommending the use of a solvent such as rubbing alcohol to remove oil before the body can react adversely.

Cole then addressed stinging insects, such as bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets.

"Bees kill about 50 people per year, which is four times more deaths than caused by snakes," Cole stated.

Wearing bright clothes, walking shoeless outdoors, and swatting at the insects can increase one's risk of being stung, according to Cole.

"Sensitivity to insect stings can change over time, so always monitor your body's reaction closely," Cole advised. "You may not be allergic [to the sting] now, but you could develop an allergy later."

As Cole continued, an assortment of spider photographs appeared on the screen.

"Spiders are also a threat this time of year," Cole said. "The black widow and the brown recluse are the two main spiders to be aware of."

Cole explained that the black widow is an outdoor spider, commonly living in piles of wood, while the brown recluse can be found mostly indoors.

"The brown recluse likes to live in closets, under furniture, and in piles of laundry," Cole said.

"Black widow venom is a neurotoxin, meaning it affects the nervous system. Brown recluse venom affects skin, muscle, and other tissues," Cole explained.

Cole closed his presentation with information about snakes, stating that the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake, both poisonous, inhabit the East Tennessee area.

Cole described the best method of determining a snake's type, saying, "If the bottom of the tail has two rows of scales, it is non-venomous. If it has one solid row of scales, it is venomous and should be treated with caution."

He also mentioned the triangular head shape of venomous snakes and the rounder head shape of non-poisonous snakes. However, Cole remarked that one should not risk a snake bite by examining the head shape too closely.

"Please remember," said Cole, "to leave the snake-handling to the professionals!'"

Holston Army Ammunition Plant is a government-owned, contractor- operated facility located in Kingsport, Tenn. Since 1942, HSAAP has produced chemical explosives in support of our warfighters and currently produces explosive fills for every type of ordnance used by the United States Department of Defense.

HSAAP is a subordinate installation of the Joint Munitions Command. From its headquarters at the Rock Island Arsenal, JMC operates a nationwide network of conventional ammunition manufacturing plants and storage depots, and provides on-site ammunition experts to U.S. combat units wherever they are stationed or deployed. JMC's customers are U.S. forces of all military services, other U.S. government agencies and allied nations.