FORT LEE, Va. – All community members here are expected to participate in National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which begins Sunday and continues thru May 7.
“The bottom line is that it benefits you,” emphasized Thomas Loden, installation emergency manager with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
“Extreme weather events have one thing in common – the ability to cause massive property damage and human injury,” Loden elaborated. “That commonality applies equally to hurricanes, tornadoes and nor’easters, an upper-Atlantic-East-Coast phenomenon. They test how well you’ve planned and prepared. Those who do nothing stand the greatest risk of experiencing harm. Proactive individuals who take the time to educate and equip themselves stand a better chance of avoiding injury or death and safely riding out the disaster.”
Hurricane season begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30. Weather experts are predicting another above-average season with at least 19 named storms and nine actual hurricanes, four of which will be category 3 or higher (wind speeds topping 111 mph). Those conducting the research also underscored the point that last year’s prediction of 17 named storms and four major hurricanes fell short. It ended up being the third most-active season on record with 21 named storms including the category 4 Hurricane Ida that slammed into Louisiana and meandered northeast as a tropical storm causing heavy rainfall, flooding and more than 50 deaths.
“Those new to Fort Lee should know that we experience some sort of threat from hurricanes pretty much every year,” Loden added. “Take a moment to Google the impacts of Hurricanes Dorian, Imelda and Ferdinand in 2019. Go back a few years to Matthew, Irene, Hermine and Sandy – all storms that directly affected this region. Simply put, we can’t afford unpreparedness. The potential cost is too great.”
Each day of National Hurricane Preparedness Week will have a theme that focuses on a specific aspect of emergency planning. Listed in order, they are Know Your Hurricane Risk; Develop an Evacuation Plan; Assemble Disaster Supplies; Get an Insurance Checkup; Strengthen Your Home; Help Your Neighbor; and Complete a Written Plan.
“I think it’s an awesome idea to focus on one aspect of emergency planning at a time,” Loden said. “It’s an opportunity to thoroughly consider the various factors of what could happen and how you or your family would respond. For example, what home preparations would you take to prevent flood or wind damage, or if you were told to evacuate, what would you pack and where would you go? It’s wise to consider as well what essentials would be needed to shelter at home for several days if roads are impassable and access to services is cut off due to electrical outages.”
A reality of natural disasters, Loden further pointed out, is that first responders and emergency workers may not be able to reach everyone right away. In addition, municipalities may not be able to restore critical services, such as power, immediately. Thus, the recommendation to have enough supplies (food, water, etc.) for a minimum period of 72 hours should be taken seriously.
“Simply put, a community’s ability to respond to, or recover from, a disaster depends on the level of forethought invested into key issues associated with safety and survival during an emergency situation.”
Loden encourages community members to educate themselves on weather terminology, such as the difference between watches and warnings, and to monitor radio and television broadcasts regularly for emergency weather updates. Every installation employee, military or civilian, also should be registered in the “Alert!” emergency warning and mass notification system. It is mandatory for permanent party service members and DOD Civilians. Contactors can do so as well.
Enrollment requires a Common Access Card. The registration site is alert.csd.disa.mil/AlertSplashPage. Individuals are highly encouraged to authorize personal cell or home phone notices so they’re receiving updates when they’re off-duty. If any difficulties with registration are encountered, seek assistance from your organization’s computer technician or the personnel manager assigned to most units.
“I think the point that’s been made clear in this article is the many factors involved in emergency planning and how well-thought-out it needs to be,” Loden concluded. “That’s really the gist of National Preparedness Week as well. It’s all about a community coming together and taking steps to ensure they have the resilience to weather any storm.”
For additional information about the NPW observance, including points to consider for each of its daily themes, click here. Other helpful resources include the disaster preparedness website Ready.gov, www.ready.gov/hurricanes. It also offers kid-friendly family activities at www.ready.gov/kids.