Preparing before disaster strikes can avoid calamity

A snow plow clears away ice and snow after a winter storm near division headquarters. Take the time during National Preparedness Month to get ready for the winter season. Having an emergency plan and being prepared can mitigate the impact of severe weather conditions.

While eyes across the nation were focused on Hurricane Dorian this week, officials at Fort Campbell are also stressing the importance of being ready for any disaster that could hit closer to home.

“Here at Fort Campbell and the surrounding areas, we are fortunate that we don’t have to deal with hurricanes, mud slides, tsunamis, and those hazards that affect communities living near the coast,” said Jay Fangman, emergency management specialist with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. “We do, however, have our own set of hazards we must prepare for, hazards like tornados, ice storms, winter weather, flash floods, sinkholes and even possibly an earthquake. “

With September being National Preparedness Month, it’s a good time to make up or update emergency kits, create or review Family emergency plans to be prepared for disasters at any time of the year. Kiosks at the Exchange, Family Resource Center, Soldier Support Center and Blanchfield Army Community Hospital can provide folders with helpful preparedness information.

Ready.gov also offers helpful online tools to help with emergency planning for people and pets as well as of checklists to help with the process.

The theme this year is “Prepared, Not Scared.”

Fangman said being prepared for an emergency is a shared responsibility.

Knowing the biggest threats are key. While tornados are usually more common from March to June, they can happen anytime. The 1999 F5 tornado that ravaged Historic Downtown Clarksville happened in January.

“Tornados can develop with little or no warning, so even in the best case scenario you only have 15 minutes to take shelter,” Fangman said. “The most important things you can do to be prepared for a tornado are to own a (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio and go to your identified shelter location in your home or office when a warning is issued.”

Winter threats may be months away but the time to prep is now.

Ice storms are one of the biggest threats to the region and have repeatedly impacted Fort Campbell and the surrounding region, he said.

“Other than the obvious hazardous driving conditions, the main dangers associated with ice storms are downed trees and power lines,” Fangman said. “The ice storm that struck the area in 1994 left some residents without power for weeks as crews worked to remove trees and repair the power grid.”

In that case, the most important items to have are a backup generator and several days’ worth of shelf stable food items and water.

During stormy weather, knowledge is important.

Summer and spring can bring heavy afternoon storms, which can produce enough rain in a short period of time to overload sewer systems and streams.

“Floods kill more people every year, on average, than tornados, hurricanes and lightning,” Fangman said. “Most of these deaths occur when drivers attempt to cross a flooded road and their car is swept away by flood waters. Heed the advice of the National Weather Service when they say ‘turn around, don’t drown’.”

A less obvious, but real threat is sinkholes.

Because Fort Campbell sits on the southernmost tip of the Mammoth Cave zone, it is a prime spot sinkholes. While one can’t prepare for the soil to suddenly giving way, being prepared with the right home insurance can prevent financial ruin. Check policies and if a home isn’t covered, consider adding a rider to cover sinkhole collapse, Fangman said.

Historically, earthquakes have made themselves felt in this area.

Fort Campbell is on the edge of the New Madrid Seismic Zone and the last time the fault had a major quake in the early 1800s, it caused the Mississippi River to flow backward and created the Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee.

“Current predictions indicate Fort Campbell would not receive heavy structural damage, but could encounter falling furniture, shelves and pictures,” Fangman said. “To prevent injury due to falling items, homeowners are encouraged to secure heavy furniture to the walls and ensure loose items cannot easily topple off of shelves.”

Planning for an emergency shouldn’t be limited to one month, but for those just getting started, there are plenty of resources and tips.

For more information visit www.ready.gov/September.

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