By Reginald Rogers/ParaglideApril 22, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - In the wake of a string of deadly tornadoes that destroyed areas around Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, and caused extensive damage to hangars and equipment at Simmons Army Airfield, post leadership wants to ensure that residents are prepared for future disasters.
Fort Bragg officials are urging community members to become familiar with the Ready Bragg disaster preparedness website to ensure that they are able to survive and sustain in case another round of storms hit the area.
"The community awareness campaign's intent is to educate the public on the things they need to do in preparation for a disaster," explained Calvin McKenzie, who works at the Directorate of Plans, Training and Mobilization's future operations section. "It includes information to help them get a (preparedness) kit, make a plan, be informed and to be involved."
McKenzie said Fort Bragg has learned from the tornado at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. on Jan. 31, as well as those that swept through the Fayetteville-Fort Bragg area Saturday that having a disaster readiness kit does work.
The Missouri storm, much like this past weekend's tornadoes here, touched down mid afternoon and caused major damage to the post.
"Case in point, we lost power in the area where I live," McKenzie said. "Luckily, we had a kit and we had flashlights, battery-powered and solar-powered radios and the (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio. So we were able to stay abreast of the situation, especially when the TV went out, there was no way for us to get information on what was going on, other than the battery-powered radio. So it paid for itself."
McKenzie said because they had both types of radios, he and his Family were able to track the storm and maintain situational awareness as to what was happening in the local area.
Glen L. Griffin, who also works at DPTM, said having a disaster-ready kit was a no-brainer for him and he ensure that it is stocked with all of the necessities.
"It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it," Griffin said. "I think it's something that everyone should have. If you have it and you're prepared for something to happen, you've got something to sustain yourself and to fall back on in the worst-case scenario."
Griffin said it's important to ensure that all the batteries are charged in the flashlights and in proper working orders. He said he also keeps emergency blankets, a weather radio, sleeping bags and other equipment.
McKenzie said he thinks the installation should have a NOAA radio to help the community remain abreast of the weather situation, especially when the forecast calls for possible tornadoes or hurricanes, which are Fort Bragg's biggest natural threats.
"We have developed a website that provides a significant amount of information and it deals with any kind of severe weather hazards," McKenzie said. "It identifies the things that the community needs to do to prepare for and survive severe weather."
He said the post is looking to spread the awareness by any available means.
"At the information fair last year, we took an emergency shelter kit and displayed it so that the public could see how it works," McKenzie said. "We also put out some pamphlets. We did the same thing for the division safety fair."
He said the community awareness campaign is still in the infancy stage, but their intent is to keep the community vigilant and ensure their safety during the storm season.
McKenzie added that there are numerous websites that provide information on disaster preparedness, but the Fort Bragg site is all-inclusive and allows viewers to see all the necessary information in one location.
"FEMA has websites and so does the Red Cross, but our website is a roll-up of everything," McKenzie said. "They can visit that website and it will tell them everything about making a kit, what needs to go in it, making a plan and how to communicate with other members to let them know your status."
He said it also identifies a requirement to notify your next-of-kin or point of contact to let them know that you're doing ok. That includes a local and out-of-state point of contact. The Ready Bragg website also has discussions about the Army's accountability program and it lists phone numbers on the site, which allows members to make calls in the event of a power outages, explained McKenzie.
He said community members can access the website by logging on to www.bragg.army.mil/Directorates/Ready-Bragg.aspx.
The website also identifies several locations on Fort Bragg that are identified as shelters that can be accessed by displaced members and their Families.
McKenzie said another program that they are promoting is the e-Army Family messaging system, which serves as a mass notification tool.
He explained that it is paid for by the Department of the Army and allows Soldiers to inform command members of their status. He added that the system sends messages to the entire command, from highest to lowest ranking and it can even be sent to wireless devices.
The Community Emergency Response Team is another initiative and it serves similar to a neighborhood watch program, McKenzie said.
During the tornadoes that came thorough this weekend, the CERT's responsibility would have been to go out and check on residents who may require additional assistance during the natural disasters.
Classes are taught by the Red Cross and are free of charge to those interested.
"They will teach you everything you need to know, such as basic first aid, CPR and things of that nature and it's free," McKenzie explained. "That's something that we would like to see take place in the neighborhood watch programs or in those communities that are trying to start a neighborhood watch program."
McKenzie said the other initiative that members can join is the Skywarn/Spotter program, which teaches residents what to look for in the event of tornado watches or warnings. The Skywarn course is taught by a chief meteorologist and those participating serve as an early warning system for the community.
Anyone interested in becoming involved in those programs should contact the Directorate of Plans, Training and Mobilization at firstname.lastname@example.org.