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The Fort Drum Public Works snow removal team will be working to keep the roads clear of snow this winter. Soldiers, family members and civilian employees are encouraged to register for the Alert! system to stay informed of changes to the duty day because of adverse weather conditions. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Stay informed, be prepared for winter emergencies

Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 15, 2022) – You may not need it now, but when winter weather arrives at Fort Drum the best way to be notified of a delay, cancellation or early release from the duty day is by enrolling in the Alert! system.

“This is the authoritative source for emergency information, and it’s effective for keeping the Fort Drum community informed,” said Rich Hughes, Fort Drum emergency manager. “Even though we use this system for weather delays and cancellations, the real purpose of it is so people are notified in real time of an emergency.”

Soldiers, Department of Defense employees and contractors can register themselves and add up to 10 family members to the system from their government computer at https://alertservices.csd.disa.mil.

Alert! messages can be delivered as a pop-up window on government computers, as well as via personal and government email, voicemail and text messages. Users can choose any or all of these delivery options, but Hughes recommends texts above all.

“People tend to check their phones more than their email,” he said. “So when it comes to an emergency notification, you want to be sure you get the information right away. I think text messaging is probably the best option.”

Hughes said the phone number calling will not be from the 315 area code, and people should not mistake it as spam. Alert! phone calls will originate from (703) 454-0563. Emails will originate from Alert-NoReply@alert.csd.disa.mil and text messages will originate from different source numbers, such as 24639.

The system also is used throughout the year to notify community members about largescale training events and other activities that may cause delays at access control points or more traffic on certain roads.

When service members prepare their PCS (permanent change of station) moves, Hughes recommends they update their Alert! account.

“It’s important that they update the command structure with their current unit, because that unit may use the Alert! system for specific messaging for their formations,” he said. “It’s all about staying informed.”

Weather Call Process

Hughes said that determining how winter weather affects the duty day is a 24/7 process.

Mountain Operations Center (MOC) personnel stay apprised of winter conditions through local and national weather forecast sources, as well as special weather statements from the 18th Combat Weather Squadron, Detachment 1, which provides 24/7 weather support for the 10th Mountain Division (LI).

“After hours, there is a garrison representative working in the MOC, and their primary function is collecting that information,” Hughes said.

On-post and off-post road conditions, Directorate of Public Works’ snow removal operations, training area activity and scheduled installation events are all factored into making the weather assessment by 2:15 a.m.

“We’ve got a lot of subject-matter experts involved in this,” Hughes said. “There’s the meteorologist from the weather squadron we can reach out to, the PW snow removal crew, DES (Directorate of Emergency Services) patrols – people with boots on the ground telling us what the weather and roads are really like. They all play a big, important role in the process.”

Based on the weather assessment, the garrison command group receives a request for a weather call decision by 3 a.m. if any of the following conditions exist:

*Road condition safety concerns

*Severe weather within local commute

*Potential for worsening weather

*Inability to stay ahead of snow removal operations

*State or county restriction of movement order is issued

The garrison commander or designated leader decides if there will be delayed reporting, duty day cancellation or a regular duty day. In the event of a delay or cancellation, key personnel receive this information by 3:25 a.m. for public dissemination through several platforms such as the Alert! system, social media, Fort Drum website and local news outlets.

“At 6:15 a.m., if it looks like conditions are going to be fine, then we will let the delay expire and people will come in at the scheduled report times,” Hughes said.  

The garrison commander will receive a second assessment with current weather and road conditions by 7 a.m., if a second weather call decision needs to be made.

If adverse weather requires early release during the work day, only emergency and mission-essential personnel are authorized to remain on duty. Child and Youth Services programs, including the child development centers, will close one hour after the early release time. The post fitness centers and the Commissary also will close one hour after the early release time.

“We try to get that message out by 11:30, because we don’t want people to leave post for lunch, and then come all the way back to work to be told to go home,” Hughes said. “It’s not always going to be perfect timing, because there’s a lot of uncertainty with weather.”

Col. James Zacchino Jr., Fort Drum garrison commander, said he appreciates that by the time he gets the middle-of-the-night call from the Mountain Operations Center, hours of analysis have already been done.  Before the garrison commander makes a decision, he is briefed on road and parking lot conditions, the weather outlook, and airfield operations, and he receives feedback from plow crews and emergency responders in real time. 

“I can’t thank the great garrison team enough for working tirelessly to make sure the installation is ready for a safe and productive workday,” Zacchino said. “But when the conditions deem it necessary to delay the duty day or require our Soldiers, civilians and family members to stay home, we take everything into consideration to make a decision that is right for our community.”

Community members also can check the Fort Drum website for road conditions and installation weather calls at www.home.army.mil/drum, and follow www.facebook.com/drum.10thmountain. The Information Hotline at (315) 772-DRUM (3786) is another resource for installation weather calls and road conditions.

For more information about Fort Drum weather messages as well as how to make a winter readiness plan, visit https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/Garrison/DPTMS/weather-messages.