By Tim Cherry, Belvoir EagleMay 24, 2012
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (May 24) -- Hurricane Preparedness Week is Sunday through June 2 and Fort Belvoir community members will be receiving plenty of storm safety tips from the Directorate of Plans, Training and Mobilization, and Security officials on post.
The security officials and DPTMS will provide preparation and emergency response information each day of the week, to help people through the upcoming hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Hurricanes are capable of producing winds that exceed 155 miles per hour, tornadoes, storm surges, floods and damage from coastlines to several hundred miles inland. Excessive rain can trigger flash flooding, landslides or mudslides due to heavy rainfall occurring over a relatively short period of time.
"Fortunately we're not normally hit by the major hurricanes, major hurricanes being category three and above," said Mario Sumter, DPTMS emergency management specialist. Sumter said Belvoir has only been hit once by a major hurricane since 1900.
"The chances are slim to none. However, we still have the possibility, when a hurricane forms on the Atlantic Ocean, of getting the (weakened storm) which could still have strong winds and heavy rains."
The last storm to affect the post was Hurricane Irene, which hit Belvoir around 8 p.m., August 27, 2011. Hurricane Irene was, at that time, a Category 1 storm and brought 80 mph winds to the area. The storm caused a number of trees' branches to fall and minimal flooding. Several areas on post had power outages, with the majority being restored the next day.
DPTMS officials said Belvoir only received a glancing blow from the hurricane.
Sumter said Belvoir responded well to the incident and stressed that personnel continue to plan for natural disaster emergencies.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a statewide Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday May 25 through 31. Virginians can purchase designated emergency supplies without paying the five percent state and local sales tax.
There are 22 categories of smaller items, including batteries, flashlights, bottled water, tarps, duct tape, cell-phone chargers, smoke detectors and first aid kits. As long as each item costs $60 or less it is tax-free. Portable generators and inverters priced at $1,000 or less are also tax-free during the holiday.
Prepare emergency kits filled with necessities, such as 72 hours worth of non-perishable food, water and medicine, for each person in a household. Community members should also have batteries, a working radio, a first aid kit and cash.
"Check emergency supplies and try to have a vehicle fueled, so that way you can avoid the gas station because they're going to be packed," said Chris McCormick, Fort Belvoir Safety, Occupational Health and Safety Specialist.
McCormick recommends, in preparation for a storm moving toward the Belvoir area, residents remove household goods from outdoors. They should anchor down items that can't be moved indoors.
Residents should also store as much water as possible, in sanitized cooking utensils, bathtubs or preferably bottles, according to McCormick.
"The water supply could get contaminated from flooding," McCormick explained.
Families should have emergency response plans for the household, with emergency evacuation plans, shelter locations and contact information.
During a hurricane, stay indoors during the storm and avoid areas near windows and glass doors. Seek shelter in a small interior room, closet or hallway in the home's lowest level.
The Belvoir community should follow evacuation plans, if advised by to do so, by garrison emergency personnel or local authorities.
Sumter said the community should regularly prepare and practice response plans for severe storms.
In the case of severe weather, the installation will communicate with residents using email (Listserv), social media (Fort Belvoir Facebook and Twitter), Belvoir AM radio (1610 AM) and the 805-3030 information hotline phone number.
Residents and workers on post should monitor at least one of these communication outlets for updates on the installation's status, with regards to openings and closings, due to severe weather.
In the case of a tornado, DPTMS will initiate the Giant Voice speaker system on post to alert any residents or workers outdoors to seek shelter immediately.
The daily safety tip DPTMS distributes during Hurricane Preparedness Week coincides with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's day-by-day analysis of hurricane preparation.
The NOAA's guide covers the basics of a hurricane, storm surge, winds, inland flooding, forecast process, proper planning and executing an emergency response plan.
"We're going to be working hand-in-hand, along with that national plan, passing out informational material by day," Sumter said.
DPTMS officials will attend the Main Exchange Safety Day, June 2 at 10 a.m. They'll be distributing pamphlets and offering advice on preparing for storm hazards to help protect the community from experiencing significant damage during severe weather.
Sumter said the office will also use Fort Belvoir's social media tools and Listserv email, to help educate the community.
Visit www.acsimarmy.mil/ready army/Hurricane_Fact_Sheet.pdf for more information on hurricane safety.
Visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes for more information on hurricane preparedness week.