Early preparation key to hurricane readiness

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Contratto
  • 96th Test Wing vice commander
Hurricane season is now upon us. With a prediction of an active storm season ahead of us, it's important to take some time to reflect on lessons learned from previous seasons. Mother Nature can be unpredictable and ruthless in its destruction. Hurricane Sandy, the last hurricane of the 2012 season, killed 285 people in seven countries and caused more than $74 billion in damages.

Air Force bases in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana have been impacted by major hurricanes such as Ivan, Katrina and Rita. Hurricane Ivan was responsible for claiming the lives of two Team Eglin members while other storms, like Katrina, devastated Keesler AFB and the entire Mississippi and Alabama coastline. This not only impacts those left struggling to pull together their lives in the aftermath, but can also cost billions of dollars in renovation costs.

According to the weather forecast predictions, the 2013 hurricane season is predicted to be more active than the average. Approximately 13-20 named storms, seven to 11 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes are estimated for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season.

What this means is take the time to prepare now.

Forecasts are not made to send people into a panic. Instead, they can give Team Eglin a good idea on how to plan for any eventuality that may affect the Emerald Coast. If a storm is projected to hit the area, people scramble at the last minute for supplies which can often lead to shortages, frayed nerves and possible injuries.

Some important things to consider when preparing for hurricane season is to stock up on necessary short-term survival supplies such as water, non-perishable foodstuffs, lights and batteries. Have an email address that can be accessed from local libraries. This is especially helpful when you have family members deployed for this might be the only way to communicate. Don't count on cell phones in case the towers become damaged; cell phones might be out for days or even weeks! In case of an evacuation of the local area, I encourage you to plan now for where you and your family will evacuate to and please do not forget to plan for your pets as not all hotels are pet friendly and leaving them behind is not the answer.

In addition to making preparations for the hurricane season, it's crucial to heed all warnings issued by base and local officials. In the event of a hurricane, placards will be posted at the entrances of every building denoting the current hurricane condition status. Know what your building evacuation plans and shelter-in-place locations are.
Information about the hurricane's approach will be released through official channels in plenty of time to keep our most valuable assets - our people - out of harm's way. If you're told to evacuate, you should do so immediately. Don't leave your safety up to chance.

Planning ahead will save you unnecessary headaches when a dangerous storm is looming. Have a plan of action that your family members all know; keep your office informed too. Updates will be posted on the marquees boards at each main entry control point and on the Eglin Web site to help keep you out of harm's way. Keep yourself informed, prepare yourself and stay safe.