FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- In the past month, we have had two named storms form off the South Carolina coast. The first storm, Alberto, caused relatively few problems, but the second one, Beryl, spawned a couple of tornadoes that produced some damage in North Carolina. Both storms, however, should serve as a reminder that we are now officially in the Atlantic hurricane season, and we need to be prepared for anything.

Hurricanes rarely ravage the Southeastern Coast and South Carolina before fall, but June 1 was the official start of hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30. As we all know, hurricanes can be catastrophic on the coastline, but also incredibly dangerous to those living several hundred miles inland.

For the 2012 hurricane season, the predictions are for an average year of nine to 15 named storms, which include four to eight hurricanes and up to three major hurricanes. And, as I said, two named tropical storms have already struck before the official start of the 2012 season.

What does all of this mean for Soldiers, families and members of the Fort Jackson community?

The answer is simple: You should have a plan. Know exactly what to do. Do not wait until disaster strikes to figure out how you and your family should react. It's better to assess your risks now and take the appropriate steps to be prepared than to go through the entire hurricane season fretting and hoping that a major hurricane doesn't head our way.

We all need to be ready. I encourage every member of the community to become familiar with the variety of available resources so the entire Team Jackson is better able to deal with these serious weather threats. Every year, Fort Jackson drills for a couple of days to help ensure Soldiers and Civilian employees thoroughly understand what they need to do should a hurricane hit the Midlands. This year, the exercise will be conducted Tuesday and Wednesday.

This exercise is a very serious and requires the interaction of many of our units and activities, all working in a simultaneous, coordinated and efficient way to maximize protection and resources for our Soldiers, family members and civilians in the event of a disaster. But preparation doesn't stop with drilling. We must maintain that same readiness at the individual level and at home.

Most of you may be already familiar with the Ready Army website, which offers a wealth of information on how to be prepared for hurricanes. If you haven't already, visit

Families should put together portable emergency kits that include items for family members with special needs and for pets. Some of the items you will need to include in the kit are at least a three-day supply of water and nonperishable, easy-to-prepare food, a manual can opener, flashlight, a first aid kit and important papers. The Ready Army site has detailed emergency kit checklists, as well as steps for developing family emergency plans.

Your plan needs to take into consideration family communication procedures in case families members are in disparate locations when an emergency strikes. Knowing how to stay in touch with one another will eliminate fear and confusion, but it's important to practice your plan and stay informed.

One way to keep up with emergency situations on Fort Jackson is to tune into AM 1650. You can also sign up for text alerts and computer pop-ups with the Emergency Operations Center. To do so, call 751-5166. A website is currently being established to inform the Fort Jackson community about weather updates and potential emergencies.

You need to also be familiar with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division website at http://www. There you can download a hurricane guide, as well as find evacuation routes, weather alerts and other useful information. It also would be a good idea to bookmark the webpage for the National Hurricane Center:

There are a lot of things you, your unit and your family can be doing to prepare for hurricane season. The bottom line is that we need to be able to execute -- smoothly on short notice. I want to ensure all of Team Jackson is ready!

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