By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 2, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 2, 2013) -- There are two keys to weather safety -- preparing for the risks and acting on those preparations when alerted, and Fort Rucker officials say that people need to prepare now for a hurricane season that is predicted to be above average.
The Atlantic basin can expect 18 tropical storms and nine hurricanes, four being major hurricanes (sustained winds of 111 mph or higher), according to professor William Gray and research scientist Philip Kloztbach, from Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science.
"Always be prepared -- prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It is a matter of life," said Willie Worsham, Fort Rucker emergency response manager.
Although, historically, Fort Rucker has been hit by few hurricanes, Worsham stresses the importance of hurricane preparedness.
"You can look at a forecast and say a season is not going to be bad or say we are too inland to get much flooding or wind, but it only takes one hurricane to hit you to make your area bad," he said.
Worsham said that people need to enter the season prepared with a severe weather kit, which includes plenty of non-perishable food items that do not need to be heated up, small tools, first aid, flashlights and batteries, and a several day supply of medication that people take daily doses of.
Besides having a kit, people need to have plenty of fuel for vehicles and generators, have a supply of water for cleaning and cooking, pay attention to local weather reports on radio, television, or the Internet, and keep important papers and valuables in a safe place such as in a waterproof lockbox.
"We usually have a lot of power outages, so people need to be prepared to be able to sustain life for 72 hours," he said.
Working with candles can be dangerous, as well as utilizing generators, so Worsham stresses to be safe and to not cut corners when the power is out.
According to www.ready.gov/hurricanes, never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation because deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
Other safety precautions include staying indoors and not driving. Fort Rucker, like many coastal military installations, uses the HURCON alert system and will issue instructions based on each level.
Worsham wants the community to be aware that once the installation hits HURCON 1, emergency responders are not sent out for their own safety, another reason people need to be prepared.
"Stay indoors, because if you get in trouble by driving around we are not going to come out and help because we would possibly be sending more victims into the storm," he continued.
To prepare for a hurricane, Worsham had several measures that people should follow.
• Make a Family communications plan.
• Identify levees and dams in the area, and determine whether they pose a hazard.
• Be sure trees and shrubs around the home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
• Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
• Bring in or secure all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and other items that are not tied down so they do not become a hazard.
• Set the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed in case of power outages. Freeze water in containers and place in freezer to help keep food frozen.
• Turn off propane tanks.
• Close all interior doors, and secure and brace external doors.
• Watch pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Be sure to have enough food and water for pets.
• Fill the bathtub and other containers with water in case the tap water is contaminated for sanitary purposes such as cooking, cleaning and flushing toilets.
"Be alert," is Brandon Masters' advice, and the Corvias Military Living communications manager suggests that post residents keep up to date with emergency preparation steps to ensure the safety of their belongings and property.
"Summer storms are unpredictable and weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly," he said. "Residents are allowed to tape their windows and sand-bag their homes, but the tape needs to be removed once the storm has passed.
"Ensure your garage door is shut," he continued. "Park your vehicle where it is less likely to be struck by falling limbs and other debris. Water will weigh down tree limbs and loosen anchors on play equipment. That, coupled with high winds, can create problems."
For Soldiers and Families new to the coastal region and the hurricane season, according to www.ready.gov a tropical depression is a tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed is 38 mph or less. A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind is between 39 and 73 mph. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind is 74 mph or more.