By Ms. Rachael Tolliver (TRADOC)April 23, 2009
This is the second in a two part series
Severe thunderstorms impact Fort Knox 20 to 30 times a year, and while thunderstorms and tornados are nothing new to the region, neither are other severe-weather events.
The state of Kentucky was not surprised during the last week of January this year by an incapacitating ice-storm. But while residents in the storms path had adequate warning, many of them did not understand the severity of the warning.
Countless people throughout the state were stuck in homes with no heat, electricity, or water, and few options. Area shelters were open to feed thousands of people who were without, and provide shelter to those who needed a warm place to sleep, as temperatures dipped into the teens.
The central Kentucky area, where Fort Knox is located, experiences severe weather events several times a year that include ice, storms, accumulating snow falls, floods, tornados, and straight winds. Last year it also added hurricane force winds to the list of possibilities.
"Annually we also get a day or two of extreme cold, bigger than normal snow fall or an ice storm and on the opposite side, extreme heat," David Fusselman, the Chemical, Biological Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosives/ Emergency Management Operations Specialist at Knox, said. "I would say we experience 30 to 35 days a year of severe weather."
January's ice storm, and the recent thunderstorms, served as a reminder for people to relearn the value of having an emergency plan in place.
Medicine and special needs
Ken and Chris Walsh, who both work in Accessions Command at Fort Knox Ky., said they handled the ice storm fairly well because they are prepared for such events with a generator, extra water, food, toilet paper, and flashlights and batteries. They said this wasn't the first bit of "severe-weather excitement" they have experienced.
But one of Chris's big concerns wasn't the generator, food or heat-it was the medication that her mother is on, and the insulin that Ken uses to manage his diabetes.
"Ken had enough on hand, but he can only get 30 days at a time. My mom however-I can only get a certain amount for a certain time. If she runs out we are in a pickle," Chris explained. "We need to look into getting a one week extra supply to keep on hand for these situations."
Having a mother-in-law with special needs, Ken said, and having his children come stay with them because they were not as well prepared, was the most important part of the week. He added that they have a portable camping shower that works on 4 D-cell batteries and a propane tank that they used to wash dishes, and take care of Chris's mother.
"I had filled up all the gas cans and the propane tanks ahead of time which was a good thing because in all of Brandenburg there were only two gas stations with any type of power," Ken said. "And we made sure when we bought the house that it had a fire place. With all the trees that we've had down over the last year or two (in other weather related events) we were good for firewood."
But Deb Fogle, a program manager who is also with ACC at Fort Knox, said her main concern was her toddler-age daughter. The ice storm made her realize she needs to do a better job of preparation.
"I am putting together an emergency kit because I have a small child," Fogle said. "If I hadn't had water-a gallon of water is a must to make formula and bathe a baby girl. I couldn't cook anything. (Her daughter) ate fruit and yogurt, and we went out to eat."
She added that she had given away her camp stove several years ago, so she decided to replace it with Sterno containers for her new emergency kit.
"We had (several) jar candles and matches, and we have a fireplace (with a) vent-free gas fireplace in it," she said. "We had no electricity...but our water is also heated by gas so we had hot water and a house that was at about 68 degrees."
Being able to call for help was another issue people faced and Chris noted that without electricity their cordless house phones did not work.
Houses and businesses across the state were not only without electricity but the power to cell phone towers was out as well. This meant several communities throughout the state had no way of telling anyone that they were in need of help, and those without a battery powered radio didn't know what was going on around them.
"I am going to go and get an old fashion wall phone," she said, "so that if the power goes out, as long as I have a phone line I can still call out."
To better prepare the Fort Knox community for events like tornados and ice storms, Fusselman said that it actively participates in Ready Army-the Army Emergency Management Program's proactive campaign to inform Soldiers, their families, Army civilians and contractors of relevant hazards and encourage them to get a kit, make a plan in case of emergency events, and be informed.
In this way EMO and Knox officials feel that the installation is as prepared for an emergency as possible, and its Soldiers and civilians can with-stand most situations and help each other out.
The emergency kit mentioned would include items from the American Red Cross preparation list, such as flashlights and extra batteries, a crank or battery powered radio, food, water, blankets, medication, and basic tools. Additionally, the kit should contain copies of important documents such as birth certificates, ID cards and insurance cards. The Red Cross also advises that each kit be checked every six months and expired or outdated items be replaced.
Having a plan refers to an understood chain of reactions on a business or family level to various emergency events, and how to stay in touch with family and coworkers. And being informed means knowing what emergencies are most likely to affect you and your family, knowing the local emergency warning system and what to do if there is an emergency as well as paying attention to the weather, and local and post news.
Fusselman said that when it comes to natural disasters personnel on Fort Knox are just as vulnerable as their civilian counterparts.
"But I do not believe, when it comes to Mother Nature, that we take things for granted," he added.