With the temperature dropping, harsh winter weather and dangerous road conditions may just be around the corner.
The Emergency Operation Center wants to ensure the White Sands Missile Range workforce knows just what to do and where to look for the most updated information during hazardous weather conditions.
Historically, the winter weather has prompted an installation shutdown almost every year.
The winter weather gravely affects the San Augustine Pass on U. S. Highway 70 and sometimes affects War Road for employees coming from El Paso, Texas.
WSMR’s Emergency Management Specialist Mcdonald Jacob said the extreme cold and heavy snowfall WSMR sometimes faces can be debilitating and dangerous.
“I think it’s very important for everyone to know the types of hazards that could impact their lives during the winter season,” he said.
Within the last three years, WSMR has implemented an AtHoc notification system to help notify WSMR employees about closures, due to inclement weather or emergencies, in a timely and consistent manner.
The mass notification system is available for employees to register on their office desktop computers. Employees have the option to receive notifications via several methods of communication, including work and personal e-mail, personal and work cell phones or your work phone. The notifications may include instructions or simply require users to acknowledge they received the message. Users are expected to respond to the messages accordingly.
If employees have not signed up for the AtHoc system yet, they can do so by clicking on the small triangle on the right side of the computer taskbar to reveal a purple ball icon.
After clicking on the icon, they will be prompted to complete the registration process. Registration for the system is strongly encouraged and Jacob said it is important to provide personal cell phones or email addresses when registering in order to be contacted after hours.
If WSMR employees who do not see the purple icon on their desktop, wish to sign-up for the AtHoc system, they can do so by contacting Jacob.
“It’s an outstanding tool, all we need is for people to go in there and input their information,” Jacob said.
If the winter weather conditions are bad enough that the installation has closed down, or has a late-start Jacob said there are some precautionary measures you can take to stay safe at home.
It is important to stay informed for the most updated information or instructions. Look for information on either the radio, your phone or television. According to a Ready Army document, you should make sure your home is properly insulated by caulking and weather stripping your doors and windows, and insulating pipes to prevent freezing. Also, consider having a separate form of heat, in case the electricity goes out. Use things like a fireplace, a small, well-vented camp stove or a portable space kerosene heater.
Other safety measures Ready Army suggests is ensuring your heating system is being used properly. Make sure you keep your home above freezing, even if you are not home or will be out of town, in order to prevent pipes from bursting and if you are at home, make sure you have warm clothes and blankets. Keep the car gas tank full in order to keep the fuel line from freezing. Lastly, get an emergency supply kit that includes rock salt, sand, snow shovels, batteries, a radio and a flashlight.
“I hope these simple bits of information will encourage everyone in the community to start preparing for the winter season,” Jacob said. “Remember, make a plan, build a kit and get involved.”
According to the WSMR Public Affairs Office, all decisions related to a late start or an installation closure due to hazardous weather conditions will be made by the Commanding General, or, in his absence, by the next senior officer in the chain of command.
It is important to use common sense when faced with dangerous situations. Individuals who are unsure on what to do during inclement weather should contact their immediate supervisor for guidance. Supervisors should also talk to their workforce to determine a line of action, should severe weather occur. Employees should know if their organization is considered emergency or mission essential and should know who to contact to confirm closures or late starts. WSMR Garrison Commander Col. Dave Brown said it is important to have these conversation beforehand in order to reduce confusion should closures or delays occur this year.
Additional information on road closures can be found at www.nmroads.com, there is also an nmroads.com app. Both the app and the website provide road closure or hazardous driving condition information.
School closures will be determined by the school district. The most updated information for White Sands School emergency information will be located at www.lcps.k12.nm.us.
During hazardous weather conditions it is important to keep the (575) 678-1234 emergency lines free for emergencies.
The purpose of these lines is to report real emergencies, not to receive information.
WSMR Director of Emergency Services Don Morrison said the site is commonly used to ask questions about closures or to receive information during hazardous weather conditions.
There is a separate WSMR information number, (575) 674-INFO, that will provide the most updated information during emergencies and hazardous weather.
If the installation closes or if there’s a late start, the information will be disseminated through several avenues including social media, radio stations and news stations, once the decision is made.
However, many radio stations are not manned on a 24-hour basis and may not be able to put out the information in a timely manner.
If employees do not have access to social media sites or have not seen the news, the AtHoc system could serve as your only reliable source for information.
“It is very important to have some other means of receiving alerts outside of the work environment,” Jacob said.
For assistance with the AtHoc at White Sands Missile Range contact McDonald Jacob at (575) 678-3674.
For the most updated information check the White Sands Missile Range Facebook page.
Phone number to call for updates: WSMR information hot line at (575)-674-INFO.