Knowledge of designated evacuation routes in Virginia – in combination with a well-thought-out game plan that includes packing lists and destination information – are essential to safety and possibly survival during a catastrophic weather event.
While Fort Lee is not in a hurricane evacuation or storm surge zone, many community members reside near the coast and other areas prone to the devastating effects of rapidly rising tidewaters and flash flooding.
Regardless of where one lives, the impact of any evacuation, whether voluntary or mandatory, can be significant. Streets and highways can become congested quickly. Worsening weather conditions can make travel treacherous. Failure to plan ahead could result in something important getting left behind.
All Team Lee members should have a shelter-in-place/home evacuation plan in addition to an emergency response kit. If it becomes necessary to leave your home due to safety concerns, you should know where you are heading and what is going with you. Choose several destinations like a relative or friend’s home, a lodging facility in another town, or a designated emergency shelter. Make sure the choices are reliable – a nearby relative may be evacuating as well, and local hotels may close in response to emergencies. Those with pets should check shelter rules to ensure animals are allowed.
Know the directions to the planned destination. Residents of coastal and flood-prone areas should become familiar with designated evacuation routes. Specific roads out of Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and other communities may be changed to one-way-only during a mandatory evacuation. Check road closures and traffic conditions by calling 511 or visiting www.511Virginia.org.
There are several resources available to assist with emergency planning and preparation, including:
• Virginia Emergency Preparedness Guidebook: – www.vaemergency.gov/prepare/make-a-plan.
• Federal Emergency Management Agency Mobile App – www.fema.gov/mobile-app.
• Children and youth preparedness toolkit – www.ready.gov/youth-toolkit.
• Fort Lee Hazardous Weather Guide – home.army.mil/lee/index.php/hazweather.
Other emergency preparedness recommendations to consider include the following:
• Ensure you will be promptly notified. Service members, DOD Civilians and contractors are required to register for the “Alert!” notification system by signing in with their Common Access Card to any computer connected to the government network. Visit alert.csd.disa.mil/AlertSplashPage to sign up. If any difficulties are encountered, seek assistance from your organization’s computer technician or the personnel manager assigned to most units.
• Plan places where your family will meet within and outside of the immediate neighborhood if it’s not safe to go home. Consider factors like how everyone would get there, what to do if someone is missing and who else could be contacted if a parent or guardian is unreachable. Ensure family members carry an emergency contact card when they’re away from home.
• Collect important documents and keep them in a safe place. This will help you evacuate without delay and get back on track after the disaster passes.
• Keep vehicle gas tanks full if an evacuation seems likely. Keep tanks at least half full at all other times because some emergency evacuations could be unexpected. Remember gas stations may be closed during emergencies due to power outages or efforts to ensure the safety of employees. When evacuating out of the area, plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
• Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of the area. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency.
• Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather. Expect delays and avoid aggressive driving; remember, the goal is safety not getting there in the shortest time possible.
• Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts; they may be blocked.
• Be alert for hazards such as washed-out roads or bridges and downed power lines. Do not drive into flooded areas. Remember the motto: “Turn around, don’t drown.”
• Make a plan for transportation if you don’t have a vehicle. Remember, mass transit may not be reliable during a serious weather event.
• Take your emergency readiness kit and don’t forget required medications. The kit should include a battery-powered radio for weather and evacuation route updates. If you don’t have a first aid kit in your vehicle, it’s a good idea to purchase one.
• Don’t leave pets behind. Remember, public shelters may only permit service animals. Plan how to take care of pets in an emergency.
• Call or email the out-of-state contact identified in your family communication plan. Let supervisors or trusted work associates know where you’re going. Keep information current in the Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System – www.adpaas.army.mil.
• Make sure homes are secure. Unplug electrical equipment except for refrigerator/freezers (unless there is a risk of flooding). If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving.
• Wear sturdy shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirts that provide protection.
Proof of the commonwealth’s susceptibility to tropical storms, nor’easters and hurricanes can be found with a simple web search. Almost every year over the past two decades, this area has experienced some type of late-summer/early fall storm that brought high winds and heavy rain, often claiming lives and destroying homes. Don’t be caught off-guard or unprepared. National Preparedness Month is a time to consider what needs to be done to protect ourselves, our loved ones and others in the community.