Parking lot after winter storm

A view of CASCOM from the Army Quartermaster and Women’s Museum parking lot following a winter storm a few years ago. In mid-December 2018, a record-setting weather event dumped between 10-14 inches of snow on Richmond and its surrounding communities.

The garrison commander is placing emphasis on winter preparedness as Virginia moves into its peak season for potential cold-weather storms.

 “It’s a call for action every Team Lee member needs to take seriously,” emphasized Thomas Loden, installation emergency manager with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. “We’ve had record-breaking ice and snow storms almost every year for the past decade. There is no reason to believe it will be any different this winter. All of us need to recognize the threat and prepare through planning and purchasing needed equipment and emergency supplies.”

Loden and his Installation Operations Center cohorts have witnessed what happens when community members aren’t ready for winter’s punch. Individuals have found themselves stuck at home with little food because roads are impassable and grocery stores are closed. People don’t anticipate the possibility of electric outages caused by heavy ice buildup on power lines. In the wake of storms, residents get frustrated because they’re not aware of road-clearing priorities. There are risks of falls and injury because building entrances aren’t properly cleared.

The list goes on.

“Without question, the most important part of winter weather planning is being prepared to shelter in place until conditions improve,” Loden said. “In the case of winter storms we’ve witnessed recently, that could mean two or more days in your home or barracks. That’s not something you can just figure out when it happens, especially if a family is involved. You have to prepare ahead of time so you aren’t caught off guard.”

The disaster preparedness website ready.gov recommends individuals keep the following emergency supply items on hand:

  • Food and water for three days (one gallon per person, per day). Stock up on nonperishable goods that don’t require cooking.
  • A good first aid kit with assorted bandages, antiseptic and burn creams. Keep in mind that emergency response crews will likely be hindered by adverse road conditions and response times could be slower.
  • Flashlights with extra batteries.
  • A power pack for recharging cellphones and other mobile devices.
  • A battery-operated radio in the event television broadcast service is unavailable.
  • Extra blankets/winter clothing for warmth in case heating system’s fail.
  • A fully charged, all-purpose (a-b-c type) fire extinguisher

Everyone needs an emergency plan, as well. Considerations include the following:

  • The parent or guardian responsible for picking up or meeting children if school’s close early.
  • Your work organization’s notification procedures. Know who is considered “mission essential” and what the requirements are for those placed in that category.
  • Nearby safe shelters if evacuation is necessary (think loss of heat, broken water pipes, gas leaks, etc.).
  • Homeowners need to know how to shut off their water supply if pipes freeze.
  • Safe procedures for snow removal from sidewalks and driveways, which of course means having the necessary equipment on hand and knowing how to properly use it.
  • Vehicle safety – having equipment available and taking the time to remove snow and ice from windows; knowing how to recover from a slippery skid; and carrying an emergency kit in case of an accident, breakdown or getting stuck. 

The third pillar of preparedness is being informed. “Alert!” is the workhorse of Fort Lee’s emergency notification network. Those registered in the system receive text and/or voice notices about closures and crisis situations via phone, email or government networked computer.

It is now a requirement for permanent party service members and DOD Civilians to sign up for Alert! Contactors can do so as well. Enrollment does require a Common Access Card. The registration site is alert.csd.disa.mil/AlertSplashPage. Individuals are highly encourage to authorize personal cell or home phone notices so they’re receiving updates when they’re off-duty. If any difficulties with registration are encountered, seek assistance from your organization’s computer technician or the personnel manager assigned to most units.

The Fort Lee Facebook page is another resource for emergency response instructions and closure notices. Local television and radio stations also run post closure announcements, as provided by the IOC. Community members should make it a habit to watch local news reports during bouts of extremely cold and/or wintery weather to be forewarned of any potential dangers such as icy road conditions, drifting snow and unsafe travel areas.

A wealth of information is available on the installation’s hazardous weather webpage, home.army.mil/lee/index.php/hazweather. Subject areas covered include employee operating and release procedures, on-post recovery operations, important contact information, and more. A printable guide is available for home and worksite planning and preparation.

“If you live or work on post, it’s a good idea to review this information,” Loden recommended. “Fort Lee Policy 21-01, a link on the site, describes the priorities for snow removal during blue, green and red road conditions. It outlines the expectation for administrative building managers to have a recovery plan in place that includes clearing sidewalks and steps leading into their facility. Those individuals should be preparing for that possibility now, ensuring necessary shovels and spreadable ice-melt is available.”

The U-Do-It Center in building 6208 on the corner of Quartermaster Road and 18th Street has sand, salt and snow shovels available for sign-out to building managers with a signature card on file. A limited number of snow blowers also are available, however, training is required prior to the issue of that equipment, and it must be returned within 24 hours. For additional information, call 804-765-7988.

Summing up this lengthy compendium of information, Loden said every action associated with getting a kit, making a plan and being informed is a step in the right direction. Those who sit idly by doing nothing to prepare run the greatest risk of bringing frustration, discomfort or harm to themselves or their families.

“There is genuine concern from our post leaders,” he acknowledged. “We have new members of the community who rotated in over the summer and may not have experienced a snow or ice event. There are younger troops and families we should be looking out for. Emergency planning and preparedness in general reduces potential harm and enhances the community’s ability to recover in the shortest time possible.”

There are several resources available to assist with emergency planning and preparation, including the Virginia Emergency Preparedness Guidebook at www.vaemergency.gov/prepare/make-a-plan; the Federal Emergency Management Agency Mobile App at www.fema.gov/mobile-app; and the youth preparedness toolkit at www.ready.gov/youth-toolkit.