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30 Sep 2010 | Marti Gatlin, Public Affairs Specialist

Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series about monitoring and preparing for severe weather.

Bad weather here isn’t limited to hurricanes, tropical storms and depressions.

Each can spawn tornadoes, high winds, thunderstorms and lightning. However, this time of year is not the only time when funnel clouds, thunder and lightning may pop up unexpectedly. When fall and spring seasons begin, temperature changes may bring these weather events.

To make sure everyone is ready for tornadoes, or any other weather or manmade disasters, the base and the rest of America observes National Preparedness Month throughout September.

MCLB Albany, local, state and national officials urge Americans to plan and be prepared for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning, high winds, earthquakes, fires, etc., that can impact their lives.

“Being located here in Southwest Georgia during the hurricane season, we are subject to high winds, violent storms, tornadoes, flooding, power outages and even fires, all which are so very dangerous, and can be initiated from a hurricane moving inland,” said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Thomas, sergeant major, MCLB Albany.

He stressed planning ahead of time as well as following experts’ suggestions to be able to weather a disaster.

“Tornadoes are extremely violent and destructive, and can happen at anytime, but that’s only one reason why it is so important to have a contingency plan for natural and even manmade disasters. In fact, families should sit together and discuss the dangers and what actions to take if any disaster were to arise.”

He also recommended parents prepare their children to handle any kind of emergency, especially if they’re away from their homes and families, because it may help save their lives or someone else’s.

“In most cases, the more we prepare now for disasters and emergencies, the better off we’re going to be,” Thomas said. “It gives us a bit of peace of mind knowing if it does happen we can take the appropriate actions to stay safe and secure, and help will also be available. Since September is National Preparedness Month, it’s a great time to look over your emergency actions, update or improve them, or get relevant information from your command, local safety offices or the Internet.”

When there’s no electricity or water, individuals and families can sustain themselves with emergency kits. Lists of recommended supplies for at least three days can be found at and

When the National Weather Center in Tallahassee, Fla., sends out tornado watches and warnings for Southwest Georgia, Madeleine Tringali, operations and planning specialist, Operations and Training Division, MCLB Albany, monitors the weather more frequently throughout the watches and warnings.

If a storm may produce a tornado or high winds in the region, Base Operations or the Public Affairs Office staff notifies the MCLB Albany population through alerts on the installation’s Web site and via e-mail wild cards, she noted.

Another way officials announce tornado watches and warnings is through a mass notification system known as the “Big Voice.” Piped through loud speakers on large towers around the base and speakers mounted on buildings’ interior walls, operators at the Provost Marshal’s Dispatch Center deliver either pre-recorded or live messages and instructions using a MNS console, according to Willie Briskey, physical security specialist, Marine Corps Police Department, Public Safety Division.

“The mass notification system saves lives and gives you early warning something is afoot,” he said. “(It) allows people to seek shelter and helps keep people in place and not panicking. People should make it a point to stop what they are doing if they hear it and listen to the instructions.”

If that primary console doesn’t work, a secondary one in an undisclosed location can be used, Briskey said. Marine Corps Order 5530.14A, Marine Corps Physical Security Program Manual, outlines the system.

“The base is covered so its entire population is notified in some form. If camping or hunting, people can hear the system,” he said. “The National Weather Service alerts us and PMO sounds the warning.”

MNS has different capabilities such as activating concurrent pre-recorded voice messages to multiple individual building systems, including one message for the affected building and a separate message for nearby unaffected buildings, the order states.

“(We announce) the warning and if (people) need to seek shelter, the (operators) can use the push-to-talk function of the mass notification system to give more detailed instructions,” Briskey said.

Public Safety Division staff conducts base-wide tests of the system once a month, he said.

“Personnel can test individual towers or the entire system at one time,” Briskey said.

Not only can operators warn the base public about possible or impending tornadoes, they also can broadcast floods and hurricanes watches and warnings, force protection conditions and active shooter messages. With the push-to-talk function, they also can let the community know when the danger has passed, he said.

Prepare for twisters

Step 1: Get a kit

* Get an Emergency Supply Kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries.

Step 2: Make a plan

* Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how to contact one another, how to get back together and what to do in case of an emergency.

* Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.

* Inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.

* Determine in advance where to take shelter in case of a tornado warning: storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.

* If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.

* In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.

* Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.

* A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.

* If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. People are safer in low, flat locations.

* Plan to stay in the shelter location until the danger has passed.

* Take a Community Emergency Response Team class from a local Citizen Corps chapter.

* Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency by visiting: http://www.foodsafety. gov/keep/emergency/index.html.

Step 3: Be informed

* Familiarize yourself with the terms used to identify a tornado hazard.

* A tornado watch means a tornado is possible in your area.

* A tornado warning is when a tornado is actually occurring, take shelter immediately.

* Listen to local officials.

*For further information on how to plan and prepare for tornadoes as well as what to do during and after a tornado, visit: Federal Emergency Management Agency, NOAA Watch or American Red Cross.

Information courtesy of

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany