FORT STEWART, Ga. -- With Hurricane Irma threatening Florida on the heels of Hurricane Harvey's devastating impact on Texas, Army safety specialists are urging Soldiers and civilians to be prepared.
James Dean, contingency planner with the Fort Stewart Directorate of Plans, Mobilization and Security at Fort Stewart, Georgia, offers three simple tips to keep in mind when facing a natural disaster.
"Have a plan to evacuate; have a kit to support your family and pets for three days and stay informed," Dean said.
These steps are part of Ready Army, a campaign to increase the resilience of the Army community and enhance force readiness by informing the community of relevant hazards, Dean explained. September is also National Preparedness Month, and with a Hurricane Irma possibly moving up the coast, Soldiers are encouraged to be proactive.
"Most of the year, we're in hurricane season -- from May through November," Dean said. "This is the height of the hurricane season. Most hurricanes happen in the Atlantic August and September."
Dean said installations make decisions at different hurricane condition levels or HURRCON levels.
Daryl Lusk, safety specialist with the Fort Stewart Safety Office, said his expertise comes from past experience and training as a safety specialist.
Lusk's advice to Soldiers and their family members, which is in line with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is to:
• pay attention to the news to track the upcoming storm's progress
• create an emergency supply kit
• ensure vehicles are fueled up and serviceable
• store loose items around the house such as hoses and grills, and
• follow local directions from the local authorities.
Lusk recalls in 1999 when he was serving as an active-duty Soldier at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, that the hurricane evacuees from Florida came to the area and brought up a large amount of supplies, leaving little for local Georgia residents, should they have had to evacuate.
Lusk said the key is to plan to have enough supplies to last about 14 days in the worst-case scenario. He said to always follow the advice of the authorities.
"Just pay attention to the news," Lusk advised.
Additionally, Soldiers must keep their chain of command informed of their whereabouts during a storm or evacuation, as well as ensuring that their chain of command has their phone number and vice versa, Lusk said.
Eric Waters, emergency operations officer with the Installation Operations Center, highlighted the Army's AtHoc system, a networked crisis communication system, as a means for Soldiers to receive alerts and report to their unit that you are safe.
The AtHoc system can keep Soldiers and installation personnel informed on hurricane warnings, post closures, evacuation orders and hurricane condition level changes, Waters said.
"My advice is to ensure that you are actually registered in the AtHoc system," Waters said. "Utilize the purple globe, utilize the instructions that you got at the end of the month and actually log in and register your information."
Lusk and Dean emphasized that families should not leave their pets behind. Ensure to bring all the pet's medications, food and medical records.
"Take your pets with you," Lusk said, noting that those who evacuate should be sure to bring the pet's kennel, as most hurricane evacuation locations won't allow pets without one.
For those leaving the area, Lusk said to turn off any propane tanks, unplug small appliances and lock up their homes.
"Go away as if your home was going to be destroyed -- you have to prepare for the worst," Lusk said.
Lusk said that hurricane evacuations are different than off-post evacuations because Families and Soldiers do not have the option of noncompliance, whereas local residents outside of post can choose to stay despite recommendations from local authorities.
Dean has held four briefings recently to encourage preparedness and has been requested to host more. He encourages Soldiers and Family members to educate themselves as much as they can and seek out information from local specialists.
Information and supply lists can be found at www.redcross.org or ready.gov/build-a-kit.