News: MCAS,Yuma community prepare for worst to give their citizens the best
Story by Pfc. James Marchetti
YUMA, Ariz. - Every September, in remembrance of the tragedy of 9/11, citizens around the nation are reminded to create and maintain a plan of action in case an unforeseen disaster strikes their communities.
Here at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., “Disaster Preparedness Month,” is a time for the Red Cross and safety readiness organizations to reevaluate their standing procedures for various possible disasters, and to be extra diligent in their efforts to make sure residents are properly prepared for anything from an earthquake to an active shooter.
Over the course of the month, the Red Cross has set up several events across the state of Arizona to ensure residents are actively preparing themselves for a disaster.
“We have two events in Yuma this month,” said Brian Gomez, the Communications Specialist for American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter based in Phoenix. “One will be with the Boy Scouts at the Yuma Civic Center on Sept. 14, and the other is a disaster preparedness education workshop on Sept. 17 at the Yuma Library.”
According to Gomez, these events will give residents the essential information to prevent, prepare and survive disasters.
These events highlight vital preparedness procedures such as how to create, practice and conduct an evacuation plan. The Red Cross stresses an evacuation plan is among the most simple, yet vital steps a family can take in minimizing the devastation of disasters.
“If you have a family, pick a meeting place somewhere out of your neighborhood and specify where your family will meet in case of a disaster,” said Gomez. “Most importantly, practice your plan with your family or by yourself, and go over it once or twice a year. It’s something that seems really simple… just going over or practicing it can take ten or fifteen minutes and can save your life or possibly a family member’s life.”
Although creating and maintaining an evacuation plan is a smart idea for families, there are plenty of disastrous possibilities in which it would be best to find shelter and weather the storm, according to Manuel Enriquez, the Installation Emergency Manager with the Mission Assurance Department on station.
Whereas earthquakes, flood warnings or an active shooter would send residents running for the hills, these disasters have not plagued Yuma’s recent history. Enriquez stated gas leaks and sandstorms are much more likely and would cause MCAS Yuma to undergo a Shelter In Place (SIP) security measure, in which the various units across station would stay indoors and wait for the danger to pass. Family Readiness Officers are responsible for going door-to-door and giving residents informative DVDs and booklets on SIP. Safety Collateral Officers confirm that every barracks and buildings have a SIP program in place.
“Say the Dole plant explodes… there’s ammonium nitrate or chlorine,” said Enriquez. “If the wind was blowing a plume, a field of gases or vapors, in one direction, we’d shut off all the ventilation and tape up all the doors and windows. That’s Shelter In Place-you’d stay in your designated shelter. Every building on base has a Shelter In Place plan.”
Whether a disaster calls for mass evacuation or SIP, a prepared safety kit containing various necessities could be the difference between life and death.
“We encourage people to have simple preparedness items such as a flashlight and some batteries, nonperishable foods, proper medication and a list of important phone numbers,” said Gomez.
Gomez and Enriquez admit that while their organizations invest major time and money in raising awareness for disaster preparedness, a community’s overall success in the matter is heavily dependent on every individual to take initiative.
“Everybody assumes that a power outage or something bad isn’t going to happen to them,” said Gomez. “But the fact of the matter is that these things do happen, and not preparing yourself is the worst thing to do.”