Build a Kit: Residents should create their readiness kit at home. It should have at least three days worth of food and water, as well as other items.

Being prepared alleviates situations' severity

By Katrina Wilson

Pentagram Staff Writer

When disaster strikes, most individuals or their families are not prepared. And not being prepared can possibly create problems. Each year in September, National Preparedness Month is observed to promote planning for disasters and emergencies.

On July 8, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall put that planning into action when the base was hit with rain, which caused 5 feet of flooding. The JBM-HH flood plan includes water mitigation at Fort McNair. Base officials were not ready for what happened at Henderson Hall.

Malanya Westmoreland, JBM-HH’s emergency management specialist, said preparedness goes beyond the month. For example, she said the flooding occurred because of improper disposal of trash after outside events.

“We had agencies and organizations that did not store equipment properly, storm drains were not adequately distributing the water and that caused the flooding,” Westmoreland said.

She pointed out that the flooding was a learning experience which ensured emergency management and other directorates are more prepared for the future.

“If we’re going to get heavy rain, we make it a practice to have (the Directorate of Public Works) do a sweep to make sure there is no debris that will possibly clog any other drains,” she said.

She added that people should be alert for the flooding signs in areas like the Marine Corps Exchange which inform others of flood risks. The flood lot in that area is designed to hold excessive water.

“We try to tell people not to park in that area, because you are at risk to lose your car,” Westmoreland said. “It’s called the flood basin.”

She noted if an individual parks there, signs are visible and flooding occurs — some insurance companies are not apt to pay when there are multiple signs that say not to park in that area.

“That is the area where we decided to increase signage and put cones there to deter people from parking out there,” Westmoreland said.

Flooding is not the only emergency that effects JBM-HH. Westmoreland said there are other emergencies the base prepares for.

“The emergencies that (would) affect JBM-HH are protests, inside active shooter, suspicious packages and weather,” Westmoreland said.

Weather emergencies that are significant to the area are tornadoes, hurricanes and winter weather, Westmoreland said.

She added that there are five phases of Emergency Management.

“We always apply the five phases of emergency management — P2MR2,” she said.

P2MR2 includes prevention, protection and mitigation before an emergency. Once the emergency arrives in the area, emergency management starts response and recovery efforts to keep the individuals on JBM-HH safe. She noted even if a hurricane is not destined to hit Northern Virginia, and hits the Norfolk or Newport News, Virginia area — Northern Virginia receives the rain from it.

P2MR2

Prevention, protection

For example, if a hurricane was in the Atlantic, her team knows they have about 10 days to prepare. Members of DPW, public affairs office, housing, law enforcement and others gather together to prepare.

At the start of the 10 days, the base is on alert for flooding. Directorates will also prepare shifts, talk to the workforce and double check the resources.

Mitigation

At this phase, the hurricane may still be in the Atlantic and has days before hitting inland.

“During this mitigation phase, we are constantly reminding people of what is needed, what is to come and how to get through it,” Westmoreland said.

Also during this phase, emergency management is looking at flood plan executions, filling sandbags and distributing the bags throughout the installation. Emergency Management will ask PAO to inform residents on the installation to secure outside items or bring them in. Residents should create a readiness kit. How to create one can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website. It should have at least three days worth of food and beverage, as well as items for first aid, flashlights and batteries.

“Do not forget your pets and their need for food and water,” Westmoreland said. “Also, if you know you are in an area that is prone to flooding and you feel better if your family was moved out of the area (for the storm), then you should have an evacuation plan.”

Westmoreland added as the storm gets closer, resources are hard to find because individuals are purchasing more gas, food and it becomes difficult to find generators.

Response

Westmoreland said at this phase, the hurricane has hit and emergency management and other directorates are working double shifts and monitoring everything to cover the grounds and move debris. She said communication is still strong with JBM-HH, D.C., Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington County and other installations to be eyes and ears for each other.

Recovery

Once the hurricane has passed, a disaster response team is created. Westmoreland said this team is comprised of DPW, fire and safety departments, medical and possibly the Army Corps of Engineers.

“(The Disaster Response Team) checks the buildings to make sure they are accessible,” she said, “what type of damages have been sustained. (The team) is tracking the cost (and damage to) provide the cost to resource management department for funding, reimbursement or assistance to get the buildings back up and running back to the commander’s priority of work,” Westmoreland said.

Westmoreland said the commander’s priority of work includes life, health and safety. Westmoreland said if electricity, water and communication is down, this is the moment to get it up and running. She said making sure everything is efficient supports the commander’s overall mission of customer service.

“When you scale back the extra layer of the onion, the next step is to see which buildings get fixed first, which organizations gets service first,” Westmoreland said.

Because service is important, she said that if a natural disaster was catastrophic and effected JBM-HH and the surrounding area, it is possible to sustain the mission.

“The Department of the Army requires installations to have a continuity of operations plan,” she said. “If we are not executing the mission here on the installation, somewhere else we should still be able to continue to execute the mission at a minimum.”

Westmoreland said she will do what it takes to make sure the mission is carried out.

“Communication and camaraderie (are) critical,” she stated. “If I can’t get to JBM-HH, I think of what other places I can go to obtain access to communicate with the installation to continue to get the job done. When the community is aware, the willingness to do what needs to be done is a given. Many people are in the know for situations, but are they prepared?”

When it comes to having the community prepared and safe, Westmoreland said this includes JBM-HH, Arlington County and the National Capital Region for certain situations.

“We conduct a minimum of five exercises a year, not just on the installation, but with the Pentagon, Arlington County, D.C. — pumping out information to the community with social media,” Westmoreland said. “Because we are an Army organization to train as we fight, we have training exercises to bring in the workforce and allow the community to participate in spreading the word.”

Pentagram Staff Writer Katrina Wilson can be reached at kmoses@dcmilitary.com.

 

Pentagram Staff Writer Katrina Wilson can be reached at kmoses@dcmilitary.com.