FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As Hurricane Irma continues on its destructive path, Fort Rucker officials are urging preparedness to help people remain safe during severe weather events.
An unruly Mother Nature can devastate lives and property; however, people can lessen their vulnerability to disaster through preparation, according to Willie Worsham, Fort Rucker emergency manager.
September is National Preparedness Month and the South is no stranger to its fair share of rough weather, so Worsham wants to make sure the people of Fort Rucker and the surrounding communities are as ready as they can be for when rough weather hits.
"This month serves as a reminder that people should prepare, now and throughout the year, for the types of emergencies that could affect them where they live, work and also where they visit. With the landfall of Hurricane Harvey just two weeks ago, and Hurricane Irma now, we see the importance of being ready," Worsham said.
"This year's theme, Disaster's Don't Plan Ahead. You Can. will continue to emphasize preparedness for youth, older adults, and people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. Each week throughout the month focuses on a different theme, including floods, wildfires, hurricanes and power outages," he said.
For the South, tornadoes traditionally increase during the fall months, but other dangers like thunderstorms, lightning, flooding and icing can accompany them, said Worsham.
"With the transition of the seasons, the polar front jet stream starts pushing frontal systems across the South," he said. "It creates pretty much the same thing we see in the spring. The fronts will come through, and during the fall the gulf is still open and still has moisture being funneled up into our area. With the colliding of the two air masses, you can get volatile weather out of it -- severe thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes.
"The key to successfully navigating Mother Nature's nastiness is preparedness," he added. "Make sure that you have a plan."
Worsham suggests that people visit the Ready Army website, which gives people all sorts of information on what to expect, how to make a kit and how to prepare for severe weather seasons and even hurricane season.
The first step is to be informed, said Worsham.
Many emergencies, like power outages, disease outbreaks and manmade accidents can happen anywhere. But certain disasters are more likely in some places than others. At Fort Rucker, a blizzard is less likely than a hurricane, so the first information residents should gather is how to prepare for severe weather caused by hurricanes, he said.
Ready Army recommends understanding the local mass warning systems that officials will use to inform people on weather conditions. At Fort Rucker, the agencies that warn of natural hazards are the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. Part of being informed is knowing how to receive information from these agencies, said the emergency manager, adding that it is a good idea to have a backup way of receiving information in case a primary system goes down.
Being informed also means people knowing where evacuation points are located in the event they cannot get home or their current location becomes unsafe. Ready Army suggests people also know what circumstances would require evacuation and when they should shelter in place.
Accountability is a key part of the Army, and in a disaster this does not change. People should know the way they will contact their unit and receive instructions in the event of a disaster.
The next step is to make a plan.
Ready Army suggests that people keep their plans practical and tuned to likely disasters that they might face. People should take the information they learned in the first step and talk about what their family plan is in each different disaster scenario. People should take into account how they will react if it is a weekend, as opposed to a workday, if their children are at school, or if an evacuation is ordered and sheltering in place is no longer an option.
Building a kit is the next step in Ready Army's list. A kit is nothing more than the supplies that people and their families will need over a three-day period. That is the estimated time it might take to clear roads, restore power or have emergency crews reach people.
After a disaster, emergency responders will address critical needs first and might not be able to get to people right away. A disaster kit will allow people to take care of themselves and their families, freeing up emergency responders to focus on the critically injured and restoring infrastructure.
Ready Army suggests people have multiple kits in different locations, like their car, office and home, because they never know where they will be when disaster strikes.
The final step is to get involved.
The Army has joined the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency in America's PrepareAthon! -- a nationwide campaign to increase emergency preparedness and community resilience.
For more information, visit http://www.rucker.army.mil/readyarmy / or https://www.ready.gov/september.
People on post experiencing power outages should call the Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Works at 255-9041 or 255-9042.
ATHOC ALERT NOTIFICATION SYSTEM
To sign up for this free alert notification system, look for the AtHOC button on the Fort Rucker website at www.rucker.army.mil.