Block party reminds Team Dover about emergency preparedness

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Aaron J. Jenne
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

More than 150 members of Team Dover braved the rainy, gloomy weather to attend the annual Emergency Management Block Party on Sept. 1, 2016, in base housing on Dover AFB, Delaware.

Each year, on- and off-base emergency management organizations team up and host a block party during the Labor Day weekend to kick off the National Preparedness Month.

At the event, emergency management professionals offered several answers to one simple question: What does it mean to be prepared?

“I think preparedness is as much a state of mind as it is anything else,” said Tech. Sgt. Carlito Tacbas, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron fire prevention assistant chief. “You never know when a disaster is going to happen; you have to be ready. You need to be educated ahead of time.”

Emergencies can come in many shapes and sizes; some forecast their arrival, while others occur without warning.

Hurricanes, severe storms, extreme heat and winter weather are all potentially hazardous conditions that provide at least some time to prepare. These weather patterns are generally forecasted several days in advance. They can result in temperature-related health concerns, flooding, high winds and dangerous driving conditions.

Earthquakes, fires and hazardous material spills are disasters anyone could face during their day-to-day routines without warning. Tech. Sgt. Miranda Mal, 436th CES Emergency Management NCO in charge, said all hazardous materials traveling around Dover AFB are transported on either U.S. Route 1 or U.S. Highway 13 just off the base.

No matter the situation, when you wait until you find yourself in a dangerous situation, it’s too late to prepare.

If understanding and mindfulness are one side of the coin, then preparing, building a kit and making plans are on the other. You never know which side the coin will land on.

“One of our goals is to teach people what they need to supply their homes with for the disasters that could affect them locally,” Mal said. “You need to have a plan for your household and make sure it works for you. You can have all the plans in the world, detailing exactly what your family has to do in every situation, but if your 5-year-old doesn’t know what to do, it doesn’t really do any good.”

Mal added that an effective disaster response plan also requires the correct items needed to make it happen. Often times this comes in the form of disaster kits.

Most people, she said, aren’t going to actually build a disaster box, or become preppers, but to be prepared, they should be mindful of what items they keep in their pantry.

As a rule of thumb, food stores should include enough non-perishable items to feed all family members for at least three days. The food kept in these stores should reflect individual needs. For example, members with electric appliances won’t be able to heat canned foods in the event of a power outage, so they may benefit more from peanut butter and bread, unless they like the taste of cold soups and stews.

Families should also be keenly aware of where their important documents are. Identification documents, current photos of everyone in the family and a checkbook, are all items that should be kept somewhere safe and easily accessible in the event of an emergency.

If identification documents, such as birth certificates and ID cards, are lost during an emergency or evacuation, it can be very difficult to prove you are who you say you are, Mal said. It’s important to have current photos to help emergency responders reunite families separated in emergencies.

Mal said there are excellent sources on the internet with recommended preparedness checklists that have more information about what families should stock up on.

Just having the items needed if disaster strikes isn’t enough. Families also need to have a plan, and everyone needs to understand the plan.

Additionally, military members are encouraged to update their AtHoc and Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System (AFPAAS) with current personal and next-of-kin information to ensure notifications in the event of an emergency.

“Murphy’s Law says that bad things are going to happen at the worst times, when you aren’t home to deal with them,” Mal said. “You need to realize, especially as a military member, you aren’t always going to be there for your family. You never know when something will happen, where you’ll be when it does or what situation you’ll be in.”

Many times family members feel prepared for emergencies, but they forget one simple truth: emergencies can happen any time whether you’re there or not. To be prepared, families should practice their plans, especially with children.

“I’ve got a family, and my first priority is to protect them,” Tacbas said. “I also need to educate them in case mom and dad aren’t here; this is what you do when something’s going on. I break it down for them. Why is fire bad? Because it burns you. If your house is on fire, do you want to touch it? No, we want to run away. Where do you run to? We run this way. Why do you run that way? Because there’s no fire there. Good! That’s what it’s all about, problem solving.”

Tacbas said this approach is extremely important when teaching children about preparedness. They need to understand the decision making process, and why they are responding the way their parents show them.

In addition to educating, Tacbas recommended conducting monthly drills. The key, he said, is to change it up. Have the type of emergency change, place the simulated danger in different locations so children learn to respond according to the danger, not the drill they’ve practiced a hundred times.

“Not only am I teaching my kids, if I teach them well enough, they can spread that message out to their friends,” Tacbas said. “I don’t think it’s just adults that spread the message. At the lowest level, if they can understand and comprehend what I’m trying to teach them about being safe, about being prepared, believe it or not, they’ll teach other kids. To me, that’s cool, it’s being infectious at all levels.”

Tacbas said emergency preparedness is a never-ending endeavor to learn.

“The more experience you have in multiple situations, the more prepared you’ll be for anything that comes your way,” Tacbas said. “You’ll have the advantage of knowing how to stay calm and evaluate your situation. To be fully prepared, you have to have a clear mind. You have a base understanding of what you need to accomplish.”

Emergency preparedness is part of survival. Everyone learns from their life experiences. In the military, one key to survival is learning to adapt.

“We move a lot in the military, usually every three or four years, so every one of us will probably find ourselves in an unfamiliar environment during our career,” Tacbas said. “When you go somewhere new, you’ve got to get the lay of the land and prepare accordingly. Find someone who is familiar with the area and ask questions. Share stories and experiences. It all comes down to educating yourself. If you don’t educate yourself, how are you going to know how to survive in this world?

“Go out there, ask, explore. It doesn’t hurt to leave where you’re at and find something different. There’s people all over the world that adapt to all types of scenarios, all types of environments. People have adapted. Just because you are from one environment doesn’t mean you can’t adapt. In order to do that, you need to network, educate yourself and just dive in.”

If you need emergency response, dial 911. Calling from a landline anywhere on base will instantly connect you with the on-base fire department. If you call from a cell phone, a Kent County dispatcher will answer, but as soon as you tell them where you are calling from, they will transfer you to the on-base dispatcher.

Additionally, Team Dover members can save the phone number (302) 677-3411 in their cell phones to connect them directly to the fire department.

For additional information about emergency preparedness plans and checklists, visit and