The Bayonet

Wednesday, Sep. 05, 2012

MCoE marks ‘Ready Army’ Month

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September marks the 11th annual National Preparedness Month, an effort to get people thinking about weather events and other potential hazards before they occur in order to have a course of action at hand.

As part of the “Ready Army” awareness campaign, Fort Benning officials are reminding Soldiers, civilians, contractors and their Families to plan ahead for emergencies at home, work and in the community. Natural and manmade disasters often strike without warning — leaving little or no time to react — but preparation is a shared responsibility, said Terry Wydra, the installation emergency manager.

“It’s very important with the location where we live. Here in the Southeast, severe weather is a big issue,” he said. “In the last couple of years, we’ve had multiple tornadoes in our area and had one touch down on the installation last year. But we need to be prepared for all hazards.

“It’s throughout the year — that’s the thing. Preparedness is something that should be done continuously every month, not just in September.”

Wydra said emergencies can surface from weather and other natural hazards, disease epidemics, terrorist acts, and industrial or transportation accidents such as a train derailment. Knowing what to do can make all the difference when seconds count.

Some might think they’re immune from danger and will never become a victim, he said. But that’s a risky mindset.

“It’s human nature for us to become complacent,” he said. “People have to be prepared. If you have to evacuate, do you know the routes? Do you know how you’re going to do it? That’s why it’s important to us.”

Alabama and Georgia are highly prone to volatile weather, said Tina Sandell, an operations specialist with the Installation Emergency Management Office. Every Wednesday, she hands out “Ready Army” brochures and literature to new Soldiers and Family members at the Newcomers Orientation at the Army Community Service Center.

“I tell them, it’s better to have a plan and not use it, than to try to figure it out when it’s happening,” she said. “When it hits, you don’t have the time. You want to be able to react — you want to know where you’re supposed to go and what actions you’re going to take.”

Wydra said Fort Benning relies on its mass warning and notification system — 18 “giant voice” poles strategically located around the installation — to alert residents and personnel of impending severe weather, a serious incident or potential emergency.

In addition, the post has purchased 150 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather alert radios for distribution to schools, child development centers and populated facilities, he said. Families and individuals may buy them for $20-$35 each at local department stores.

The Installation Emergency Management Office is working with the National Weather Service to certify Fort Benning as a “storm-ready community,” Wydra said, adding it should happen in the next two months. Requirements include a 24-hour warning system, how notifications get send out and storm-spotter training.

Sandell said it’s important for Soldiers, civilians and contractors to educate their Families and engage in solid preparation practices throughout the year.

“Most of the time, the Soldier will probably be at work, so the Family needs to know what their action plan is — where they’re going to go to in the house. An inner room is good, but if they have a basement, that’s the first option,” she said.

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