FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 21, 2015) -- Fort Leonard Wood is now among 25 Army installations to receive StormReady certification through the National Weather Service.

Col. Andy Herbst, Fort Leonard Wood Garrison commander, accepted the official StormReady certification from Steve Runnels, National Weather Service, warning coordination meteorologist, Springfield, Missouri, during the Safety and Health Fair Friday at Nutter Field House -- signifying the installation's ability to maximize safety and minimize damage during severe weather.

"StormReady certification means Fort Leonard Wood met very high standards of preparedness," Herbst, a Sunrise, Florida native, said. "With this certification, members of this community can have the peace of mind knowing that they have the best possible chance of being warned before a weather disaster strikes and aided following an event."

Fort Leonard Wood partnered with the National Weather Service and the State Emergency Management Agency Region I to ensure that response is integrated with organizations capable of supporting Fort Leonard Wood and its neighboring communities, Herbst added.

Through the StormReady program, the National Weather Service 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.

According to Troy Carney, a Fort Leonard Wood emergency management specialist and Waynesville native, the installation met several requirements to qualify for the StormReady certification, which include:

-- Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center;

-- Have more than one way to receive and alert the public about severe weather warnings and forecasts;

-- Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally;

-- Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars;

-- Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.

StormReady is a nationwide program to help communities, universities and installations better protect their citizens, students, Soldiers, families and workforce during severe weather incidents.

"The StormReady program is designed to recognize the hard work done by various agencies such as public safety here at Fort Leonard Wood," said Runnels, whose office is responsible for 37 Missouri counties. "It has a criteria of being able to receive warnings from the National Weather Service and relay that information to decision makers throughout the post and throughout the community. Ultimately, can we get people to shelter? Can we get people aware that storms are coming and save lives?"

"We can never get rid of the storms but we can mitigate against the impact of those storms," he added. "We've done a lot of work with Fort Leonard Wood to make sure they are aware of all of the NWS watches and warnings. They've worked hard to be able to distribute that information out the community."

Runnels said that individual citizens still have their responsibility of responding to those warnings.

"One of the things that we learned from the Joplin, Missouri, tornado disaster is that people often look for additional information before deciding to take shelter," Runnels said. "From a StormReady perspective -- as soon as you are in a warning -- take shelter immediately."

According to the National Weather Service, Americans live in the most severe-weather-prone country on Earth.

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, wild fires or other deadly weather impacts.