The 11th Wing, Civil Engineer Squadron Readiness and Emergency Management Flight has tools and information for anyone on Joint Base Andrews who wants to know what to do to be prepared for severe weather. Staff Sgt. Eric C. Reist, Non-Commissioned Officer for Emergency Plans and Operations, works with teams on JBA and in the surrounding community to ensure safety in case of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, heavy rains and even the occasional earthquake.
Reist said that floods are the most common natural disaster to affect communities throughout the nation--they occur in every state, and are a factor in 90 percent of all presidential declared natural disasters.
“You’re six times more likely to suffer a flood than a fire, over the course of a 30-year mortgage,” Reist said. With a 27 percent flood rate over the course of that mortgage, Reist encourages homeowners and renters to verify that their insurance policy covers flood-related damages.
Few areas on JBA are within the 100-year floodplain; most areas that flood on base are near the Virginia Avenue Gate and the golf course. But that is not reason to neglect to prepare for flooding in your home, office or even on the roads you take to and from work.
Since a depth of just six inches of moving water can knock a human being down, and two feet can move an SUV, “we don’t want people driving to work through it, because you can’t see the road conditions,” Reist said. Even roads that seem familiar can change beneath the surface of the water, with bridges and other structures weakened by rushing water or just the changing weight of soggy ground. Surrounding the roadway, rain-soaked ground can also lead to fallen trees and downed power lines.
Although flash floods do occur, most flooding happens with enough warning for people to evacuate, if needed. JBA has three emergency shelters on base: the Community Activities Center (Building 1442), the West Fitness Center Annex (Building 1414) and the East Fitness Center (Building 3705). Each are staffed by members of the Force Support Squadron during any natural disaster severe enough to impact a large percentage of the base community. Residents of the Liberty Park at Andrews on-base housing have their own evacuation plan organized for them by the housing office. A moving generator is also available on base to keep crucial power flowing.
If you do need to seek shelter, it helps to have your important documents--and those for your pets--on hand in a safe, dry place where they are easy to access in an emergency. Keeping a copy in your car or at your desk can save you time in an emergency. Remember to check for a safe place for your pets, as well. Prince George’s County government maintains a list of emergency shelters which accept pets.
Social media makes it easy to get information about inclement weather that could impact your day. The Federal Emergency Management Administration has launched a FEMA app for Android users, with an iPhone version in the works. You can also text FEMA to ask for the emergency shelter closest to your location. Anyone with a Common Access Card can also take advantage of the AtHoc system, a relatively new addition at Joint Base Andrews. At the bottom of your desktop’s screen, click on the purple globe and follow the link to “assess self-service.” Choose your location or just select “weather” to have alerts sent to your mobile and home phone, emergency contacts, work and home emails and for text message alerts. Reist suggests adding a spouse or fiancee’s contact information, as well, so that they can be contacted in case of a weather emergency.
“AtHoc is still fairly new to the base. We encourage people to update and participate in it,” Reist said.
Once a flood has occurred, the danger hasn’t passed just because rain is no longer falling. Standing water can conduct electricity, and even away from downed power lines the water that rises after a flood is not safe to consume or touch. Wear gloves and wash or sanitize your hands frequently, because sewage and other contaminants are almost certainly present in any standing water after a flood. Listen to news reports to verify water coming through your tap is safe to drink as well. And get the help you need through your command, the Military and Family Support Center or elsewhere on base.
“There are 20 emergency managers assigned to Andrews,” Reist said. “There’s always someone who can help you.”