By Lori Yerdon, U.S. Army Combat Readiness CenterSeptember 7, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Sept. 7, 2018) - While the nation observes National Preparedness Month each September, officials from the National Weather Service recommend individuals plan year-round for inclement weather.
The NWS reports that hundreds of people die and thousands receive injuries each year because of the weather.
Douglas Hilderbrand, NWS meteorologist and Weather-Ready Nation lead, cautions that disasters can strike at any time; and while National Preparedness Month serves to shine a spotlight on preparedness, people should have a 365 day-a-year mindset.
"Many preparedness actions take seconds and don't cost anything," Hilderbrand explained. "For example, take some time identifying your safe place for the leading threats in your area. During the holiday season, think about gift ideas like an emergency kit, a National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration weather radio, or fire/carbon monoxide alarms."
For some severe weather, there is time to plan. Such was the case with Hurricane Lane, which affected service members and their families in Hawaii, and Tropical Storm Soulik, which impacted those stationed in South Korea.
Other weather phenomena, including pop-up storms, heavy rain and tornadoes, leave less time to react, but there still are prevention measures people can take.
"Some weather events like thunderstorms can develop quickly," Hilderbrand said. "The best action is to prepare well before an event or outing and make decisions that reduce your risks.
"If you and your family want to enjoy a day on the water, and there is a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, alter your plans so that you could get back to shore quickly, or even focus your time earlier in the day and head to shore sooner than originally planned."
Hilderbrand also says not to let inconvenience be an excuse for putting yourself and loved ones in danger.
Weather forecasting technology continually improves and, according to Hilderbrand, advances in supercomputing, newly deployed weather satellites and upgrades in radar have pushed weather forecasting to be more accurate, which in turn provides better-advanced notice.
"Forecasts are becoming incredibly accurate, often giving multiple days of advanced lead time to a specific hazard," Hilerbrand said. "Hurricane Harvey's rainfall totals over 50 inches were historic, but what also was historic was the prediction that over 50 inches of rainfall would occur.
"Even with all of the advances in technology, however, the weather forecaster is still essential in the accuracy, timeliness and communication of lifesaving weather warnings. Meteorology is still part science, part art."
In today's high-tech world where virtually everyone connects to the internet, Hilderbrand recommends individuals rely on trusted sources for weather information.
"Weather.gov, a NOAA weather radio, commercial weather provider, TV and social media are all excellent venues to stay in the know during adverse weather," he said. "However, take extra precautions when relying on social media, in its timeliness, reputation and reliability of specific accounts."
Weather affects everyone stationed around the world, on and off duty and no matter the season. Consequently, Hilerbrand says every person has the responsibility of weather preparedness.
"Check on those with disabilities, young children and others who may be more vulnerable to the impacts of weather, "he said. "Serve as an example to others, and even engage your social media network. Everyone has a responsibility for themselves, their family, neighbors and community."