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When the weather outside is frightful

Northwest Guardian

Published: 11:12AM January 28th, 2016

When the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall, it’s important to know where to get information. Those who live and work on Joint Base Lewis-McChord should know where

to get alerts about the day ahead.

You can start by signing up for JBLM alerts — lewis-mcchord. — and clicking on the link under “Installation Support.”

Todd Eckstein, installation chief of operations, said the most important part of inclement weather safety is signing up for alerts and knowing where to find pertinent JBLM information.

“We have received several questions from people asking how they find out about base closures or delayed reporting,” he said. “Those who sign up for the alert system on the JBLM main (website) will get that information pushed to them through email, text message or recorded phone call.”

If you don’t want to receive alerts, you can also check the JBLM website and click on “Road Conditions” or call the Operational Hotline (253-967-1733) for a recorded message, he said.

The Installation Joint Base Operations Center monitors the weather 24-7 and conducts predictive analysis using the JBLM Severe Weather Decision Matrix. Determinations are based on weather forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Road Condition Reports from the Directorate of Emergency Services.

This matrix is an algorithm that takes into consideration temperature, precipitation, snow accumulation, road conditions, winds, school closures, etc. and provides the operations center with a point of reference for current and expected conditions in the next 24 hours. If conditions are expected to worsen, a Severe Weather Threat Board will convene via teleconference. The board consists of the JBLM commander, directors of various services and representatives from I Corps, 62nd Airlift Wing and Madigan Army Medical Center.

After conferring with the board members, the JBLM commander will make a decision on whether to delay reporting for nonessential members, curtail operations or close the installation. The operations center will then disseminate that message via the alert system as well as posting it on the website and updating the Operational Hotline. The operations center will also use a green phone which rings in most brigades and above headquarters on JBLM to further communicate the weather call.

The JBLM public affairs office will also notify local news media and post the message on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. In most cases, the weather call will be unanimous for all commands or services, but there may be some exceptions when missions require certain personnel or services to report for duty.

Delayed reporting or curtailed days are decided by senior commanders. In the event of a different reporting standard, the above reporting methods will clearly state which commands or personnel are affected.

The military police also play an important role in weather alerts and changing local road conditions from green to amber or even to red or black. Local patrols will make recommendations through DES to the JBLM chief of staff or to the JBLM commander, who will dictate the road conditions for the entire base.

Changes to road conditions will also be disseminated to the JBLM population via the official JBLM website, operational hotline, green phone and social media. Mass warning alert messages will not be sent out for changes to road conditions since those conditions themselves will not necessarily dictate late arrivals, early departures or closures. Military police will also post signs at every gate showing the current road conditions.

There are snow removal plans for Lewis Main, McChord Field, the airfields and the major arterial roads. The Directorate of Public Works has a prioritized listing of which roads to clear first in the event of a heavy snowfall.

It also maintains historical data on which roads, such as high hills, bridges or tree lined streets, tend to get icier than others and can send people out to deice or sand those problem areas. DES also does a great job coordinating with DPW to provide them with up-to-date information if certain parts of the base need additional attention, Eckstein said.

Sidewalks, however, are not part of DPW’s coverage. Walkways are the responsibility of building managers and occupants.

“We have had a couple of people fall, and this year has been worse than normal for icy conditions,” Eckstein said. “We would hope that building managers would do their best to make sure their workplace is safe, whether it’s mopping up a spill inside or ensuring the sidewalks, especially leading into the building, are safe.”

Pedestrians should be aware of the icy conditions and be sure to watch where they are stepping.

“It’s just like driving — people need to allow themselves that extra time to get where they’re going safely,” Eckstein said.