By Heather Huber, Fort Campbell CourierMay 19, 2016
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (May 19, 2016) -- When bad weather is headed toward Fort Campbell, Soldiers and Family members have a variety of ways of getting and staying informed. But while working in the yard or playing outside few think to track weather conditions.
To help keep everyone who is outdoors on post safe, Fort Campbell's Emergency Operations Center will use the "giant voice" to announce warnings when necessary.
"It starts out with a series of alarms, a wailing alarm, generally with a voice message at the end of it that generally will repeat three times," said Gerald Brooks Jr., EOC operations specialist. "That way the community can at least get an opportunity to hear it and start reacting to it."
The giant voice is an electronic voice message broadcast from 11 towers inside the cantonment area and three outside Gate 10. Each tower has nine layers of speakers, each designed to broadcast 360 degrees so the message can be heard from all directions.
Brooks said the main reason EOC uses the giant voice is to warn people of potential dangers, but the center is also prepared to use it in the event of imminent danger on post, such as an active shooter situation or chemical or biological hazards.
"The giant voice is not designed for indoors, especially in the more modern homes and quarters with modern insulation and with the TV on or music playing," Brooks said. "I know a lot of people misunderstand it and say [they] can't hear it inside the house. It's not that that's not important … but the towers are designed to alert the folks [who] are outside -- training or playing ball out here, working in the yard, whatever kind of activities that may be going on. It's to get their attention."
Although some people can hear the sirens indoors from some locations, that is because of the proximity of one of the sirens broadcasting message.
Brooks suggested that when someone hears the giant voice, they should check Channel 9 or visit the Fort Campbell internal or external websites, as well as AtHoc and Twitter for more information. The Public Affairs Office also updates Facebook with all weather watches and warnings.
"Our first step after we get that warning is to sound that alarm," Brooks said. "Our second step is to send out that AtHoc message so that it can start getting to the phones, emails … and Twitter so it can get out quick."
They also have to contact Range Control to notify any Soldiers in the Back-40. All of this is done by two people within the first 15 minutes of receiving an alert from the 4th Detachment, 18th Weather Squadron, and its higher echelon the 15th Operation Weather Squadron, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
"We have our own weather folks here on Fort Campbell," Brooks said. "They will collaborate looking at the weather to determine what type of conditions are over the installation."
If the weather technicians decide there is cause for alarm, the EOC gets a telephone message from Scott Air force Base notifying them of the warning.
"Once we get that warning [for example], the prediction is the potential of a tornado hitting in about 15 minutes, so we don't have a lot of reaction time to get this message out," Brooks said. "Sometimes we get the watch way in advance for that potential, but when you get the warning we don't hesitate to react to that."
Because of the small reaction window, Brooks emphasized the importance of not calling the EOC for information when the sirens and giant voice sound.
"When we first get that alarm, we're busy trying to get that message out to the public and when the phone starts ringing it actually hinders us," he said. "It slows us down in trying to get that message out."
Although Fort Campbell doesn't get much severe weather outside of thunderstorms, the system is tested the first Tuesday of every month to ensure it remains in working order. Brooks said most people on post seem to be accustom to the tests, but depending on maintenance and upgrades the system occasionally has to be checked more than that.
"We're continuing to try to improve our ability to notify the installation," Brooks said.