Fort McCoy News April 8, 2016

Severe Weather Awareness Week April 11-15

April 11-15 is Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin.

During this week, facility managers, safety officers, and Families in the Fort McCoy community are asked to review the procedures to be implemented to ensure they are prepared when severe weather strikes.

Statewide tornado drills will take place Thursday, April 14, according the Wisconsin Department of Emergency Management (WDEM).

A mock tornado watch will be issued at 1 p.m., and a mock tornado warning will be issued at 1:45 p.m. Also, for the first time, a mock tornado warning will be issued at 6:55 p.m., as well.

Safety graphic

"Due to other operational commitments, we will not be sounding the sirens on the installation during the statewide drill," said Emergency Manager Scott Frosch of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. "However, as always, we encourage everyone to remain alert and vigilant to the weather notices, warnings, and watches that come with severe weather."

According to the NWS, Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes annually, and 17 tornado touchdowns were recorded in the state in 2015. All of the tornadoes were either an EF0 or EF1.

Though Fort McCoy will not participate in the tornado drill, it will take place in many areas off post, even if the sky is cloudy, dark, or rainy, according to WDEM.

If actual severe storms are expected in the state April 14, the tornado drills will be postponed until April 15 at the same times.

If severe storms are possible April 15, the drills will be canceled. Any changes will be issued to local media as well as posted on the ReadyWisconsin website at readywisconsin.wi.gov.

WDEM also offers the following tips to stay safe in case of a tornado:

• In a home or building, avoid windows. Move to a basement, and get under a sturdy table or the stairs. If a basement is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and cover yourself with towels, blankets, or pillows. If possible, get under a sturdy table, desk, or counter. Put as many walls as possible between you and the storm.

• If outdoors, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If you cannot get to shelter, stay in your vehicle with the seatbelt on and place your head below the windows. Do not seek shelter under an overpass.

• Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. You should leave a mobile home and go to the designated storm shelter or the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building.

• At school, go to the interior hall or room. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In addition to tornadoes, lightning is another severe-weather event people need to be prepared for, according to the Army Combat Readiness Center (CRC). Since fiscal 2005, at least 41 Soldiers have been injured by lightning strikes; three Soldiers died from their injuries, and another suffered a permanent total disability.

More than half of those lightning-strike injuries occurred during two events just a week apart in August 2015. In the first, Soldiers were injured when a nearby tree was struck as the platoon was executing lightning lockdown procedures. In the second incident, lightning struck a tree in the troop tactical operations center, injuring several Soldiers.

The CRC offered the following tips to stay safe from lighting strikes:

• If you're caught outside in a thunderstorm with lightning, seek shelter in a sturdy structure or hardtop vehicle.

• If you find yourself in a vehicle, sit with your hands in your lap. If possible, shut off electronic communications equipment when lightning is in the area, and don't use it unless absolutely necessary.

• If you're inside a building equipped with a telephone, don't use it either.

• Avoid large pieces of metal equipment, and make risk decisions concerning vehicles loaded with various types of explosives or ammunition. Explosive items and ammunition have varying fragmentation distances, which should be considered in mission planning. Keep this in mind when making the decision on how far to clear away.

• When caught in the open with no place to go, ensure you're not close to tall trees or structures that are the highest points in the area. In wooded areas, seek shelter under a thick growth of small trees. Avoid tall objects, isolated trees, bodies of water, sheds, and fences. If you are part of a group, spread out and squat down in an attempt to keep as low a profile as possible while keeping both feet planted firmly on the ground.

• Keep in mind lightning can strike even after a thunderstorm has passed. It's best to wait about 30 minutes after the weather passes to resume activities. A general rule of thumb in estimating the hazard area for lightning strikes is flash-to-bang time. If you see lightning, begin counting seconds. If you hear thunder within 30 seconds, you're in a hazard area. If your hair begins to stand on end, squat down immediately and place your hands on your knees with your head between your legs.

For more information about tornado and severe weather safety, go online to https://safety.army.mil or readywisconsin.wi.gov, or call the Installation Safety Office at 608-388-3403.

   (Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office and the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security.)