Staying Alive: We Prepare. You Should, Too.

When Disasters Strike, Your Military Responds

Being prepared when a disaster strikes could be the difference between life and death. Not just a fighting force, the U.S. military applies warfighting skills and assets to help protect the homeland. Service members train and prepare year-round so when hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and even volcanoes erupt, troops are ready to help those in harm’s way.

Hurricanes and Floods

Hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property of all natural disasters – bringing powerful winds, dangerous storm surges, inland flooding and tornadoes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

When a hurricane is on the way, members of the Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, known as the "Hurricane Hunters," often fly into the storm to gather and send back data to forecasters on the ground.

On the ground, Army officials say more than 300,000 National Guard troops are trained and ready to assist with hurricane response including evacuations, communications, delivering supplies and maintaining order. Along with its military manpower, the Guard also deploys helicopters, boats and high-water vehicles.

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''The National Guard is the nation’s first military responder. We are the first to respond and the last to leave.'' (Army Master Sgt. Michael Houk, National Guard Bureau)

A Texas National Guardsman carries a resident from her flooded home.

Seven Tips to Be Ready if a Storm is Coming

1 Monitor local radio and TV for updates. The path of the storm could change quickly and unexpectedly.
2Hunker down and take shelter.
3Communicate with friends and family.
4Keep away from windows. Close storm shutters; flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
5Prepare for power outages. Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting, and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer.
6Storm surges pose a great threat to safety and can cut off potential evacuation routes. If you’re told to evacuate, don’t wait.
7Avoid driving through flooded areas. Almost half of flash flooding deaths occur in vehicles.

Quiz: Floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes! Are You Prepared?

Do you know what to do when disaster strikes?

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"“I’ve never experienced something so terrifying in my life. Nothing could prepare you for something like this,”

(Sept. 12, 2018) Cameras outside the International Space Station captured a stark and sobering view of Hurricane Florence the morning of Sept. 12 as it churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles an hour.

Into the Fire

National Guard personnel and assets play a significant and increasing role in fighting and preventing wildfires across the country.

In 2019, crews in Army Black Hawk helicopters dropped hundreds of buckets of water to help put out multiple wildfires that spanned over 90,000 square miles in Alaska.

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In California, the Guard is supporting efforts to reduce the risk of wildfires, including clearing hazardous trees and dead vegetation. This follows multiple fire disasters in 2017 and 2018 that killed over 100 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.

Tornadoes

The U.S. has the highest average annual number of tornadoes in the world, with more than 1,000 recorded every year. Experts say tornadoes cause an incredible amount of destruction in only a few seconds and are very hard to forecast accurately in advance.

The National Guard immediately responds after being called to assist after a tornado has touched down. Often, these soldiers and airmen are from the affected communities, helping relatives, friends and neighbors by performing search and rescue missions, providing security and in some cases assisting with rebuilding.

After a slew of tornadoes ripped through Louisiana in early 2019, one Guardsman said, “Being able to clean up our own community after a disaster is a privilege. … That’s our job.”

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Do you know what lava sounds like?

(Sept. 12, 2018) The USGS Unoccupied Aircraft Systems (UAS) team conducted a flight on Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone to collect video in the upper lava channel of fissure 8. Information obtained from this mission was relayed to Hawai‘i County emergency officials to aid in issuing emergency alerts and notices about the timing of evacuations.

Volcanic Eruption

Of the more than 160 volcanoes in the United States, the U.S. Geological Survey rated 18 as having a “high threat” for causing severe impact if they erupt. These volcanoes are found along the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii.

When Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted May 3, 2018, service members from all branches answered the call, providing assistance such as security, evacuation and roving patrols in affected areas. A civil support team provided chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive, or CBRNE, operations by checking sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide levels created by the fissures.

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"These are catastrophic weather events that we take very seriously. We stand ready to respond if so called."


(Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, National Guard Bureau)
(June 5, 2018) Guardsmen are on duty helping keep citizens safe as the Kilauea volcano continues spewing lava.