FORT LEE, Va. – It is only coincidental that the weather remnants of Hurricane Ida will sweep into our area on the opening day of National Preparedness Month.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of severe weather that could possibly generate tornadic activity. There also is potential for flooding from heavy rainfall. The period of greatest risk extends from late afternoon thru the midnight hour today.
All of this is proof positive of an oft-spoken warning – the hurricane threat to our area must be taken seriously with awareness, planning and proactive preparation.
Each year, Fort Lee joins communities across the country for September’s NPM campaign. The theme of this year’s observance is “Prepare to Protect: Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”
“It’s an exercise of what-ifs,” observed Thomas Loden, installation emergency manager for the Fort Lee Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. “Every one of us have to consider what we should do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm when a disaster happens. Lessons learned and what experts recommend can guide our actions. Awareness and planning are the ultimate goals of National Preparedness Month.”
For background, the period known as “hurricane season” extends from early June until the end of November. Four named hurricanes have already formed over the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, and three of them, including Ida, made landfall in the United States. Throw named tropical storms – the precursor to hurricanes – into the mix, and the count is up to 12. Weather experts are quick to note that 71 percent of seasonal storm activity will occur over the next three months.
“A subsequent concern well-voiced in national media reports is the apparent increased intensity of storms,” Loden further observed. “Our area has witnessed pop-up storms that deliver inches of rain in a very short timeframe. Severe thunderstorms and other tornado-producing weather systems also are occurring more frequently. Considering all that in addition to the threats of hurricane season makes an effectively good argument in favor of taking emergency preparedness seriously.”
Throughout the month, DPTMS in partnership with the Public Affairs Office will publish informational articles on the digital news page army.mil/lee, and preparedness tips will be shared thru social media. The week-1 topic is Make a Plan, which this article emphasizes. Week 2 is Build a Kit. Week 3 is Low Cost/No Cost Preparedness, and week 4 is Teach Youth about Preparedness.
“I know these topics are not something most people want to think about or simply dismiss because they have a whole lot of other things going on in their lives,” Loden said. “That’s the first hurdle to overcome. It’s the understanding that we don’t have the luxury of reacting when a hurricane or other disaster is imminent – that’s when there’s a tendency toward panic over a well-thought-out plan of action.
“The main point is all of us need to take disaster preparedness seriously and not allow complacency to put ourselves or those we love in danger,” he further emphasized. “That’s really what it boils down to … knowing that the possibility of disaster always exists and simply having a plan and making those advanced preparations can greatly reduce the potential of harm, anxiety and panic when faced with a situation that’s far beyond our control.”
Fort Lee has a multifaceted communications network in place to keep community members informed. The Mass Warning and Notification System, or “Big Voice,” can be heard throughout the installation and in most administrative buildings. The Fort Lee Facebook page is a resource for emergency response instructions and closure notices. Service members, DOD Civilians and contactors are required to register for the “Alert!” notification system by signing in with their Common Access Card to any computer connected to the government network.
Visit alert.csd.disa.mil/AlertSplashPage to sign up. If any difficulties are encountered, seek assistance from your organization’s computer technician or the personnel manager assigned to most units.
Several information resources with item checklists are available for individuals and families who want to establish or increase their emergency preparedness. They include the national ready.gov site, the Ready Virginia resource page at vaemergency.gov, and Fort Lee’s hazardous weather guide at home.army.mil/lee/index.php/about/hazardous-weather-guide.
“As residents of an area that has seen its share of significant storm activity in recent years, we need to understand the steep cost of apathy and unpreparedness,” Loden summarized. “We need to listen to what experts have to say about protecting ourselves, our families and our homes to the best extent possible. We must be considerate of the transient aspects of the military community – our newest neighbors may not have the first-hand experience of riding out a storm or comprehend the components of sheltering at home and living without utilities, supermarkets and other services.”