March 2 MARE to focus on natural disaster

Tinker Air Force Base Okla. -- With temperatures hovering below freezing and wind chills regularly blowing in the single digits, most people are ready to put the dark days of winter behind them and welcome in spring. 

But springtime in Oklahoma typically brings severe weather to the heart of "tornado alley" and the workforce at Tinker needs to know what to do when severe weather strikes. 

That's why Tinker officials have scheduled a Major Accident Response Exercise for March 2, focusing on a natural disaster. The MARE will also be a major part of Resolute Warrior 07-02 that will run until March 8 and include a "mobilization" to the Glenwood training area north of the base. 

"Because of the impact to production, we can't conduct these exercises for very long," said Paul Logan, exercise controller with the 72nd Air Base Wing's Plans and Programs Office. "They are important nonetheless and we need to do what we can to make the most of them." 

In this particular scenario, Mr. Logan said the MARE will begin with the issuance of a severe thunderstorm watch and culminate with a tornado touching down and moving across the base. 

"We're mandated by Air Force Instructions to conduct a natural response exercise," Mr. Logan said. "In Oklahoma, we'll conduct a tornado exercise to make sure people are protected, know where their shelters are and how to get help, if necessary." 

Mr. Logan said the exercise will be base-wide and entail an emergency management portion for emergency responders. 

As for the rest of the general population, Mr. Logan said the exercise will involve a sheltering exercise while safety officials continue to drill the emergency management slice. 

"We hope to find that the base populace is prepared for the upcoming tornado season," he said. 

Tinker is no stranger to tornadoes, having been struck by what Mr. Logan described as "glancing blows" on May 3, 1999 and again on May 8, 2003. 

But on March 25, 1948, Tinker was hit directly by a massive tornado resulting in an estimated $10 million at the time. Today, a tornado of that magnitude would result in billions of dollars in damage. 

"Basically, as history has proven, we could certainly be in the path of tornadoes and the workforce needs to know how to protect themselves when severe weather strikes," Mr. Logan said. "Generally, these storms hit rather quickly, so we need to know what to do to be prepared."