The U.S. Navy launched a new emergency preparedness program dubbed READY NAVY this month. Once known as Operation Preparedness, the program is designed to increase the ability of every person and family on or near Navy installations to plan and prepare for all types of hazards, to include Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear hazards.
"This is a good time for this program to be introduced because we are at the height of hurricane season, so people are already thinking about being prepared and what they would do," said Deputy Region Emergency Manager Jeff Wilson. "Especially with recent storms that we have had, people have been out of power for a couple days, so getting them the additional information to make the kit, be prepared and make arrangements with things that they need to would help."
According to Commander, Navy Installation Command, 2011 went down as a record year for natural disasters where thousands of Navy personnel and family members were directly impacted and forced to evacuate their home. Naval District Washington (NDW) alone provided direct support to families displaced by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March of 2011 and even responded to the unexpected earthquake that rattled the National Capital Region in addition to the effects caused by Hurricane Irene all in one week in August of the same year.
With these events coupled with those that happened worldwide throughout the year, it is important to realize that a natural disaster of any kind can happen anytime at any installation Navywide. This mindset is the focus of one of Ready Navy's key messages: "Disaster Happens". This message speaks to the fact that complacency can be the biggest downfall to Sailors, DoD personnel, contractors and their families during a disaster.
"The mindset needs to be the same as it is for other folks who are in deployable forces. Do they have their sea bag ready do go? Is it fully packed? Are they deployable now? So that's the mindset," said Robert Klebahn, regional program manager for Fleet and Family Support Program. "If they can think of it that way that they are part of a rapid response team and they have to have their bags packed and ready to go at a moment's notice then they will get it."
One of the first lines of defense to being prepared is becoming and staying informed. The best way of being informed is to be connected through the Navy's Wide Area Alert Network (WAAN). The WAAN system provides Navy Installations worldwide with an effective and reliable mass notification system that can be used during a crisis to warn and direct affected personnel. All military, civil service, and contractor personnel with an NMCI or One Net user account are required to register their office email address and phone number, at minimum, in the WAAN. Registering personal emergency contact information is also strongly encouraged.
According to Wilson, NDW has increased its WAAN users significantly over past the six months and now have more than 50,000 personnel registered. He also spoke on the recent tornado warning that happened over the weekend. Even though personnel where not at their desk, the warnings sent out by the WAAN system was still received by at least 60 percent of those registered to their phones and other mobile devices.
"It's the difference between being informed and not being informed. I'm signed up and I live in Montgomery County, so I get the severe thunderstorm warning before its obvious for us that winds are turning," said Wilson. "So I will go and cleanup anything in the yard and do simple things like that which could have a big impact with things smashing the windows or flying across streets and yards. Every little of bit of knowledge helps."
Wilson also encourages everyone to also seek out community alert systems. He mentions that many of the larger counties within the NDW region offer alerts as well as statewide notifications.
"We try to hit everybody that lives within our region but with county alerts they may get the information out a little faster or have some additional details that we didn't provide," he said. "In addition, look through everything and let us know if you need additional guidance. The worst that could happen is that you're better informed for a disaster in the future."
For more tips and guidance on Being Informed, visit http://www.ready.navy.mil/BeInformed/index.htm.