Missouri will conduct its annual statewide tornado drill next week, and Fort Leonard Wood will participate, starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday. At that time, a mass warning system will notify the post’s population that the drill has begun.
According to Troy Carney, installation emergency management specialist, the expectation is that all personnel and families on post will respond as if it were an actual emergency and take sheltering actions.
Carney said the first five to 10 minutes after the sirens begin can be the most important — being the difference between life and death.
“Statistics show that inaction — for example, not knowing what the sirens mean or not knowing what to do when the sirens blare, increases risk of injuries or in some cases even death,” Carney said.
The drill is part of Severe Weather Week, which includes a preparedness day on Monday, flash-flood safety on Wednesday, a severe thunderstorm day March 5 and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio day March 6 — all to increase awareness of Missouri’s tornado season, which occurs March to July each year.
Anyone who has worked on Fort Leonard Wood more than 10 years is aware of the potential for severe weather here at any time of the year. On Dec. 31, 2010, a tornado caused an estimated $90 million in damage to homes and training areas. As a direct response to that, storm shelters were installed at ranges and training areas to ensure the safety of trainees.
Carney said that additional goals for this drill are to increase community awareness throughout Fort Leonard Wood on the dangers of severe weather, exercise protective actions during a tornado and get 100 percent accountability of personnel on Web Emergency Operations Center, a crisis information management system that provides real-time information sharing.
“Immediate action drills provide an opportunity to exercise what actions to take during severe weather and to exercise preparedness plans,” Carney said.
Any preparedness plan should include instructions on what to do in different types of emergencies and how to get accountability for all family members, Carney said. In addition, families are encouraged to also have a kit ready that includes anything necessary for 72 hours of survival — items such as food, water, extra batteries, flashlights and pet-care essentials.
The ready.gov website has several tips on making emergency plans for severe weather. Click the “make-a-plan” link for free online documents detailing plans for a range of natural disasters and emergencies.
“The more people we can get who are able to take care of themselves and know what to do during any type of emergency situation, the better,” Carney said.
(Editor’s note: Information for this article was provided by the Fort Leonard Wood Emergency Operations Center.)