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NEWS | Aug. 25, 2020

Hurricane preparedness during COVID-19: plan now and stay informed

By Beverly Joyner 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

While the JBLE community continues to follow COVID-19 guidelines aimed at reducing transmission of the virus, families should also be prepared for the hurricane season and other potential severe weather threats.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration project an above-normal hurricane season, which runs through November 30. NOAA predicts between 13 to 19 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes with the probability of three to six classified as major, which is category three or greater.

According to the National Weather Service, several factors contribute to the development of hurricanes, which are categorized as cyclones that originate in the tropics. The factors that fuel hurricanes include ocean water temperature, atmospheric conditions and wind speeds greater than 74 miles per hour.

To assist the JBLE community in preparing for the hazards associated with hurricanes and other adverse weather threats, JBLE emergency management teams utilize a number of creative tools and ideas, not just during hurricane season, but throughout the year.

“Right now we’re engaged in a collaborative effort with Force Support Squadron in providing virtual emergency preparedness orientation to newcomers,” said Richard Green, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management specialist. “Since we can’t physically meet with newcomers at this time, we’re using virtual presentations to discuss hurricanes, family disaster planning, emergency supply kits, evacuation routes and to offer specific instructions on certain things people may encounter at JBLE and within the surrounding communities.”

In addition to continuous planning and training, Green said seasonal hurricane newsletters are provided to each unit emergency management representative to help formulate their JBLE emergency management plan checklists and to ensure resources are available when needed.

To ensure information is disseminated to people who may work on the installations but reside elsewhere, team members also partner with local emergency managers.

Green emphasized the importance of staying alert and informed during the hurricane season. Severe weather conditions can be monitored by using the JBLE app and web site, installation status hotline, Giant Voice, AtHoc emergency notification system, Virginia hurricane guide, local television and radio station broadcasts, social media websites and the national Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, said Green.

In 2012 the Federal Emergency Management Agency established IPAWS to connect to privately-owned systems and technologies such as cell towers, landlines, digital signs, sirens, and radio and television broadcasters, in order to send the public alerts and warnings about national emergencies, adverse weather and other natural disasters.

“Each installation is located close to bodies of water but Langley sits at a lower elevation and is susceptible to flooding. An essential hurricane preparedness tool for people on both bases is the Know Your Zone emergency evacuation program,” said Green. “If the governor declares a state of emergency and orders an evacuation, folks need to know what zone they’re located in so they can plan to leave quickly and safely.”

An estimated 1.25 million residents on the Northern Neck, Hampton Roads, Middle Peninsula and Eastern Shore live in Virginia’s coastal region most vulnerable to hurricanes. The Know Your Zone tiered evacuation program designates zones A through D. Residents can visit the website to enter their address to determine if they should evacuate or shelter-in-place.

For residents living in mandatory evacuation zones, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s hurricane evacuation guide recommends reviewing and updating previous family evacuation plans to follow COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During severe weather, families should not be afraid of seeking shelter due to COVID-19. If ordered to evacuate and it’s not possible to shelter with family or friends, VDEM recommends residents evacuate only to public shelters and to be aware that shelter locations may have changed or be closed due to the coronavirus.

Following a hurricane, access to supplies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may be limited or not available for days or weeks, therefore it’s important for families to be prepared with supplies necessary to protect themselves and others.

Airmen, Soldiers and their families are encouraged to create emergency plans and build basic disaster supply kits to last for at least 72 hours. To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other viruses, the kits should also contain masks, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, bleach, rubbing alcohol and other protective items.

“Between the three-day supply list and your emergency communication plan, it comes together to form your family emergency plan and what you would do in that type of disaster,” said James Ferguson, 633rd Air Base Wing emergency management specialist. “Cash should be in your kit because the expectation is that we may not have electricity for a period of time. It’s also a good idea to make sure your car always has three-quarters of a tank of gas, especially during hurricane season.”

According to Ferguson, when families build supply kits the recommendation is for them to not hoard and spend beyond their budgets since most of the items they need should already be available in their home.

“There are small things we can do throughout our day-to-day lives to give us that little sliver of control in a situation where we may actually have little control,” said Ferguson. “If we can all prepare to that level, we’ll get through it, but it’s much easier when you’ve got a little bit of wind at your back.”

To get installation status updates due to adverse weather conditions, call the JBLE Installation Status Hotline at (757) 764-7550. For more information on preparing for hurricanes and other severe weather threats, visit the following websites: