Are you ready? Being prepared before, during and after an emergency saves lives

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- (Editor's note: For the past three weeks, the Tinker Take Off has embarked on a series of articles to help educate the Tinker community on what to do and where to go in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive attack. The following article is the last in a four-part series on Readiness and contains information to help the reader do just that. Tinker officials say knowing what to do before, during and after an event and being truly ready is critical to saving countless lives.)
   Knowing where to go and what to do before, during and after an emergency is critical to saving lives and minimizing the loss or degradation of resources.
   But, Tinker officials say, "It all begins with YOU!!!"
   Jonny Conover, a senior exercise evaluator with the 72nd Air Base Wing's Plans and Programs office, said Tinker Air Force Base Plan 10-2 covers all events to include response to a weapon of mass destruction incident and is exercised annually in accordance with Air Force Instruction 10-2501.
   "What we look for during these types of exercises are things that need improvement and work to improve those," Mr. Conover said. "But, the public needs to be educated as well. Every individual on base also has certain responsibilities."
   To that end, Mr. Conover and his team of professionals in the installation exercise program office hold regular meetings with members of the base exercise evaluation team to discuss potential threats and responses to those threats.
   "I believe the last meeting we had on June 12 was a very fruitful meeting," Mr. Conover said. "As the installation exercise program office, one of our responsibilities is to ensure all organizations have the opportunity to fill their exercise requirements and I believe we are able to easily accommodate those organizations."
   As for the individual, Tinker emergency manager Steve Ferreira said the first thing members of the Tinker community can do is learn about the potential hazards that may strike their community, the risks they face from these hazards and the community's plans for warning and evacuation.
   "You can obtain this information from your local emergency management office or your local chapter of the American Red Cross," he said.
   In addition to finding out about the community's plan, Mr. Ferreira said, it is important to know what plans are in place for your workplace and your children's school or daycare center.
   "Ask local authorities on methods used to warn your community and familiarize yourself with the Emergency Alert System," he said. "At Tinker, we test the sirens every Wednesday at noon so people should recognize the sound and know where to go in case of an actual emergency."
   Mr. Ferreira said it's also important to familiarize yourself with emergency evacuation routes on and off base.
   "When community evacuations become necessary, local officials provide information to the public through the media," he said. "In some circumstances, other warning methods such as sirens or telephone calls are also used."
   Tinker officials will provide up-to-date information and guidance to the public through a number of different resources such as the Tinker Messaging System, Commander's Access Channel and the Straight Talk line should an emergency situation unfold.
   "The Straight Talk line is an automated message system that can receive up to 42 calls at the same time," said Ralph Monson, Tinker Public Affairs chief. "During contingencies, people should call 734-1900 to get the latest information available." 
   Once learning about the potential hazards in your community, familiarizing yourself with local warning systems and signals and learning emergency evacuation routes, Mr. Ferreira said the next step is to create a family disaster plan.
   The family disaster plan, he said, should include escape routes, family communication plans and knowing how to shut off utilities such as natural gas, water, electricity, etc.
   "Mark escape routes from each room on a floor plan of your home and establish a place to meet in the event of an emergency such as a neighbor's house or the neighborhood grocery store parking lot," Mr. Ferreira said. "Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another.
   "Complete a contact card for each family member and have family members keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse or backpack. Include contact names, phone numbers, meeting places and any other important information," he added.
   Mr. Ferreira said it's also important to have key documents such as insurance forms and other vital records on hand, to make considerations for those with special needs, have a care plan for animals, ensure you and other family members know how to use a fire extinguisher and how to administer first aid and CPR, and assemble a disaster supply kit.
   "To effectively shelter, you must first consider the hazard and then choose a place in your home or other building that is safe for that hazard," he said. "Sheltering outside the hazard area would include staying with friends or relatives, seeking commercial lodging or staying in a mass care facility operated by disaster relief groups in conjunction with local authorities."
   Mr. Ferreira said recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process and that your first concern after a disaster should be your family's health and safety.
   "Check for injuries and administer first aid and CPR, if needed," he said. "Don't attempt to move someone who is seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger. If you must move someone who is unconscious, stabilize the neck and back and call for help immediately."
   As for your own health, Mr. Ferreira said, be aware of exhaustion, try not to do too much at once, set priorities and pace yourself, rest, drink water and eat well. He recommended also wearing sturdy work boots and gloves and washing your hands with soap and clean water often when working in debris.
   Mr. Ferreira said to also be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster.
   "Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring and slippery floors," he said.
   Mr. Ferreira said to inform local authorities about health and safety issues including chemical spills, downed power lines, smoldering insulation and dead animals. When returning home, there are also a number of general tips to keep in mind, he said.    
   Among these are to keep a battery-powered radio with you so you can listen for emergency updates and news reports, use a battery-powered flashlight to inspect the damage around your home and use the phone only to report life-threatening emergencies.
   Following is a number of links that should be useful to Tinker personnel and their families:

Other important resources
Web sites
Air Force Portal:
Be Ready:
American Red Cross: 

Phone numbers
FEMA: (800) 621-FEMA
CDC: (800) 311-3435
Flood Insurance Information: (888) FLOOD-29
National Poison Control: (800) 222-1222
American Red Cross: 734-3030
CE Readiness Flight: 734-3515
Security Forces: 734-2000
OSI: 734-7822
Straight Talk Line: 734-1900