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Hurricane readiness: simple steps to a safe season

Posted 6/9/2010   Updated 6/9/2010 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Brandon Barnes
628th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management journeyman

6/9/2010 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- June 1 kicked off what could be a very intense and unpredictable six-month-long hurricane season.

Members of Joint Base Charleston should educate themselves on what items they will need and what resources are available to prepare themselves, their family members and their pets.

It's important to know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. A hurricane watch is an announcement of specific coastal areas that a hurricane or a developing hurricane condition poses a possible threat within 48 hours. A hurricane warning is issued when winds of 74 miles per hour or higher associated with a hurricane are expected in a specified coastal area within 36 hours. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.

Putting together an emergency supply kit as well as a "go bag" in the event of an evacuation is a must. All household members should know where the kits are located and what the family evacuation plan is. Some items to include are copies of prescription medication, required medical supplies, bottled water, a battery-operated radio, a first-aid kit, maps of evacuation routes, clothing and bedding. Also, have copies of important documents such as social security cards, proof of residency and insurance policies. It is important to remember that if evacuation is ordered by the wing commander, be sure to have your vehicle filled with gas and keep plenty of cash with you as credit card machines and ATM's may not work.

The U.S. operates off a 5-tier system known as the Saffir-Simpson Scale for categorizing the severity of a storm and its potential storm surge. Use this chart for reference:

Category one hurricane: Will have winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour. This hurricane will cause minimal damage, including damaging unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs.

Category two hurricane: Will have winds between 96 and 110 miles per hour. This hurricane will cause moderate damage, including damaging all mobile homes, roofs, small crafts and cause flooding.

Category three hurricane: Will have winds between 111 and 130 miles per hour. This hurricane will cause extensive damage, including damaging small buildings and cutting off low-lying roads.

Category four hurricane: Will have winds between 131 and 155 miles per hour. This hurricane will cause extreme damage, including destroying roofs, taking down trees, cutting roads off, destroying mobile homes and flooding beach homes.

Category five hurricane: Will have winds more than 155 miles per hour. This hurricane will cause catastrophic damage, including destroying most buildings, destroying vegetation, cutting off major roads and flooding homes.

In addition to the hurricane scale, the National Hurricane Center in Miami works with Joint Base Charleston using a slightly different notification system called HURCONs or Hurricane Conditions.

Hurricane Condition 4 - Winds of 58 mph or more are expected within 72 hours

Hurricane Condition 3 - Winds of 58 mph or more are expected within 48 hours

Hurricane Condition 2 - Winds of 58 mph or more are expected within 24 hours

Hurricane Condition 1 - Winds of 58 mph or more are expected within 12 hours

Hurricane Condition Black - Severe winds have passed. All personnel remain in shelter until mission essential personnel perform initial damage assessment.

All Clear - Destructive winds have ceased. Begin recovery operations and listen to the radio or television for information regarding resumption of work schedule and recall personnel as approved by the wing commander.

The Readiness and Emergency Management Flight has Natural Disaster Handbooks and they are available for distribution. They can also be found on the Air Force Portal on the Joint Base Charleston Readiness and Emergency Management Community of Practice. Additonally, offers extensive information on hurricanes and how to properly prepare for them.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has a website dedicated to providing disaster information to the public. Visit for a full list of suggested emergency supplies, how to make a disaster plan and to stay informed.

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