By Heike HasenauerAugust 21, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 21, 2008)--Just as Tropical Storm Fay danced back and forth from Gulf Coast waters into Florida communities - threatening to build to hurricane strength - some 100 attendees of the Army Emergency Management's annual workshop for installation preparedness wrapped up their week-long meeting in Tampa, Fla., and Army officials announced a new emergency-preparedness initiative: Ready Army.
The program is intended to "get the entire Army community ready for emergencies," said James Platt, chief of the Asymmetrical Warfare Office's Protection Division.
The Ready Army Campaign kicks off Sept. 2, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security's National Preparedness Month, which encompasses the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Previously a one-year pilot program, Ready Army's concepts were tested at Fort Hood, Texas, and at U.S. Army installations in Germany, Platt said.
In March, during Ready Army Week, Fort Hood emergency-preparedness personnel worked with city officials of nearby Killeen to distribute brochures and pamphlets that provide valuable information about how to prepare for emergencies, said Patricia Powell, a spokeswoman for the Florida workshop from Battelle Corp's Crystal City Operations in Virginia.
The message was simple. "It's about being prepared for the first 72 hours after an emergency-situation occurs. We want people to consider how they'll notify their families and where they'll meet," she said.
Soldiers who raced out of the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building on Sept. 11, 2001 remember well their futile attempts to notify family members that they were OK, one Pentagon-based Army officer said.
As was the case then, "you're more likely to be able to reach someone by cell phone outside the critical area than inside the area," said Platt. How to reach loved ones in an emergency to reunite or simply ease their minds is something everyone should think about.
Unique to servicemembers might be the question of where to go, he said, if their off-post home is destroyed by a tornado, fire or flood. At overseas locations, especially, Soldiers and their families likely do not have extended family with whom they could live temporarily.
"What if you're visiting another country while stationed overseas and a disaster occurs'" Platt asked. "Will you have enough foreign currency to get where you need to go' Will language be a barrier'"
Emergency preparedness is all about the multiple disasters we could face that could disrupt lives," Powell said.
The bottom line is that preparedness increases the resiliency of America's fighting forces and supports Soldiers who are forward deployed.
"We do this so our Soldiers downrange can feel comfortable that their families are being well taken care of at home," she added. "It frees them up to focus on what they need to focus on [in combat]."
Just as the pilot program re-emphasized the need for people to be prepared for emergencies, Ready Army will help to ensure that individuals and families Army-wide are ready for emergencies by providing information outlining what they need to do to be prepared, Platt said.
Because each installation has its own localized threats, individual installation emergency-preparedness plans are in place across the Army. Those address where displaced people should go and what emergency-evacuation routes they should take, among other things.
"A comment was made by someone at the Olympics the other day that is so true," Platt said. "A lot of people have the will to win, but few have the will to prepare."
In the aftermath of an emergency, such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, preparation can mean the difference between life and death.
"Whatever the response, it has to be a community effort," Platt said, "so Ready Army officials will work closely with Department of Homeland Security officials, community leaders and emergency-preparedness personnel.
During the Aug. 17-21 emergency-preparedness workshop in Florida, emergency-preparedness officers and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialists from installations Army-wide focused on preparations for hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters, an influenza pandemic and a terrorist attack, Powell said.
Other emergency-preparedness efforts include annual exercises across the Army to ensure Soldiers and their families will know how to respond in emergencies.
For more information on how you can prepare for an emergency, and to download related material, go to Ready.Gov.