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The Mountaineer Online

Take time during National Preparedness Month to think about emergency planning

Mike Strasser

Staff Writer

The theme of this month’s National Preparedness Month campaign is "Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can." Anyone who watched the hurricane events unfold in Texas and Florida can understand how vital it is on every level – national, state, family and individual – to be prepared and know how to respond in emergency situations.

North Country residents may not have to anticipate an incoming hurricane, but the same principles of preparedness apply to that disaster as they do to a severe winter storm.

Terry Byard, installation emergency manager, said that the annual readiness campaign encourages people to make their own emergency plan, assemble an emergency aid kit – both for the home and vehicle – and stay informed.

"There are things like having extra water, flashlights, batteries and blankets, and knowing where everyone is, that will keep you prepared in case of an emergency," Byard said. "Just the whole process of thinking about those types of things, creating a family plan so everyone knows where to meet up, that helps determine all the ‘what ifs’ that can happen." (See Page A7 for related safety article.)

Byard said online resources such as Ready Army program and offer invaluable tips and checklists for any type of emergency planning.

These websites explain how to make a family communications plan and how to design an emergency kit for at least three days of self-sufficiency.

"With just a little bit of effort, Soldiers, Civilians, Family Members can do their part to gather all the information they need to keep themselves safe and keep themselves prepared," Byard said.

National Preparedness Month is not just about educating and empowering people to respond to natural disasters and weather-related incidents. Byard said that it is about preparing for all types of emergencies, and that includes potential terrorist attacks.

With all of the local observances held recently to commemorate the 16th anniversary of 9/11, Byard said it is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of being prepared.

"We live in a world today where you never really know how your life is going to change in an instant," he said. "If people take the effort to have a family plan, build an emergency kit and keep informed of what is going on, it just makes you better prepared to react to what’s happening."

At Fort Drum, the AtHoc Mass Notification System is designed to send emergency updates through email, phone and text message to those who register online. Byard said that the system alerts people when there is a delayed or cancelled work day, and it can also be used to provide construction updates on post. Fort Drum Employees see these pop-up notices on their desktop computers.

"It has been very effective in getting information out to the community using the AtHoc Mass Notification System," he said. "We encourage people to register their family cell phone number or email so they can receive these notifications, because it really is very helpful."

To register, visit

The Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System, or ADPAAS, is available for all Department of the Army personnel and their Family Members. The website allows users to report accounting status, update contact and location information, complete needs assessment and view reference information such as useful websites and phone numbers.

"Fort Drum has been doing really well with the ADPAAS," Byard said. "We recently had a national ADPAAS exercise, and, during that, Fort Drum was 100-percent on their accountability."

During the hurricane events in Texas and Florida, ADPAAS provided real-time accountability for Army personnel, and Byard said that proved the system’s value.

"That helps the chain of command tremendously in making sure we are able to support those people, and it also gives them comfort that they can reach back to Fort Drum and know we are taking care of them."

For details, visit

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