JOINT BASE LEWIS-McChord, Wash. – Last winter, heavy snow and freezing conditions slowed down operations at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Jan. 17-22.
Once the press release was sent on an icy Tuesday afternoon, commanders began to release their subordinates in an effort to get them home before the road conditions worsened.
JBLM has measures in place to reduce risks when inclement weather arises. One of the measures is a curtailment process to reduce the amount of accidents caused by bad weather.
“The base operations center monitors the weather 24/7 and uses a matrix to determine whether work schedule changes are necessary,” said Kevin Witt, the operations chief of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
Witt makes recommendations to the Joint Base commander. Based on these recommendations, the commander informs the Army and Air Force senior commanders and implements one of three options for delayed arrival or one of two options for early release. Leadership plays a critical role in alerting their soldiers and civilian personnel, and keeping them updated on changes.
“Commanders use the Defense Connect Online system to meet via video conference,” said Joseph Piek, Joint Base Public Affairs officer. “The DCO allows them to talk to other commanders during the decision process without having to be in the office.”
JBLM updates their Facebook page regularly, has an emergency hotline and will soon implement a Twitter account in an effort to keep everyone informed. JBLM also updates their homepage daily with information on the installations status and road conditions.
“Often times many areas will lose power,” said Piek. “Once they lose power, soldiers will go to their cars to charge their smartphones in order to keep up with the updates.”
Everyone is categorized based on their need and function within their unit, commanders use these ratings when deciding who comes to work and when to report.
Army critical personnel and Air Force level alpha personnel are expected to report to work under all weather conditions to keep the installation at minimum operating level.
Army mission essential personnel and Air Force level bravo personnel are crucial to the direct support of operational missions and may be called in depending on the circumstances.
Non-essential personnel or non-emergency personnel are needed for full operations and are less likely to be needed during severe weather conditions.
Piek expressed that the reason why there are so many safeguards in place is because the EOC’s objective is to avoid forcing leadership to make last minute decisions.
“The idea is to prevent our population from mixing with the outside population trying to get home when the weather gets bad,” Piek said.
To check on the current road conditions, weather delays, report times and emergency information check out the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Facebook site and stay in contact with your supervisors. You may also receive updates from the JBLM homepage or hotline at 253-967-1733.