Severe weather: Do you have a plan?

By SarahBeth Davis, MCoE Public Affairs /

June is National Safety Month, and the hot topic for this week is “Watch Out for Dangers.”

As the summer season continues to unfold, with it comes unpredictable weather, so Soldiers, Families and civilians on Fort Benning should be aware of the potential dangers that volatile storms could pose.

Staying indoors during tornado and severe thunderstorm watches and warnings is strongly advised.

In case of a tornado, have somewhere in your home to go that is secure and low such as a basement, or even seek shelter in a bathtub.

During a thunderstorm, avoid metal, electronic devices and plumbing fixtures. Purchase and use a NOAA weather radio to keep up to date on the condition and path of the storm.

Storms can cause bodily harm, as well as damage to possessions. Anything that could be blown away or damaged during a storm should be secured. Lightning, high winds and heavy rainfall can cause tree limbs to fall onto your house or car. This can cause serious damage, but it is preventable.

Avoid parking under trees whenever possible, but especially if there is a storm watch or other indications that a dangerous storm is imminent. Situational awareness is key to being able to protect your Family, your house and your belongings.

Being vigilant is made easier thanks to all the resources Fort Benning provides as a StormReady installation.

The AtHoc system, an emergency alert system for Fort Benning, provides notification if there is severe weather in the area. Common Access Cardholders and non-CAC holders can register for these alerts online.

Tina Sandell, Fort Benning Emergency Management operations specialist, helps incoming Soldiers register for the emergency alert system every Wednesday morning at the Newcomers Orientation.

“We want to be sure that all new Soldiers and Families have access to the AtHoc alert system. We also have quarterly reminders for people to register, as well as brochures and pamphlets on post,” said Sandell.

In addition to the AtHoc system, there is a Giant Voice system which is comprised of 19 towers strategically located throughout Fort Benning.

The system will activate during a tornado watch and usually indicates that an active tornado has been sighted in the area. This means that those on Fort Benning should seek shelter immediately.

The Giant Voice system is tested every Saturday and is an audible reminder to be prepared for tornadoes or other severe weather conditions.

“When they have a drill, it’s time to practice with your Family. Have a plan and know where to go,” said Sandell.

Terry Wydra, Installation Emergency Manager, keeps Fort Benning StormReady and he reminds residents and employees to be aware of the dangers that severe storms can cause.

“We work with GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to promote awareness and have our readiness events. We look at all hazards. If you’re not from here, you may not understand the weather and the seasonal impacts,” said Wydra.

Soldiers and Families assigned to Fort Benning should be aware of their surroundings at all times, but especially with the summer storm season now in full swing.

Have a plan in case of a storm and make sure your belongings are secure. If possible, avoid parking where branches could fall and cause damage. Always be aware of the current weather conditions, especially in case of severe storms or tornado warnings.

Non-CAC carriers can register for the Fort Benning AtHoc emergency warning system at: https://warnings.army.mil/SelfService/2538145/register.

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