Fort Riley, Kansas



Become weather prepared with Ready Army, Safety Office

By Kalene Lozick | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | November 17, 2017

     “Whether you are a newcomer from New York, north western states or even coming from Florida, pay attention to what is being put out as first messaging in regard to the weather,” said Chris Hallenbeck, Fort Riley emergency manager for the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.

     Hallenbeck works directly with Dawn Douglas, safety and occupational health specialist with the garrison safety office, to inform and prepare all of the Fort Riley community about severe weather.

     “In Kansas (the weather) changes every day and every week, so find a way to get communication from us, the national weather service and the local news,” Hallenbeck said. “Know where your resources are and know regionally what you need to prepare for.”

     Near the Ogden and Manhattan, Kansas, gate and Marshall Army Air Field and Henry Gate there are electronic signs that Douglas and her team will manage when inclement weather approaches.

     “So from our perspective when severe weather is expected or likely to hit,” Douglas said. “One of the first things we do is to use our marques (electronic signs) at the three access points — Henry, Ogden and Trooper gate — and we put out weather alerts.”

     When inclement weather does approach Fort Riley, snow is not the major issue — it’s ice.

     “Snow is not the major factor; it’s typically icy conditions that will hit us,” Hallenbeck said.

     These icy conditions cause conditions suitable for power outages.

     “What we’ve seen on the installation are isolated power outages,” he said. “Normally what is comes to be — just like in the community — it’s not from down power lines, but could be from animals getting into transformers so it shuts down the power for a little bit.”

     When the power is out, families need to be well prepared, especially in the Kansas cold.

     “We always try to tell people ‘hey look when the power goes out, you have got to prepare for it,’” Hallenbeck said. “In your house, if you are going to have alternate heat source and the power is out, are you using your gas fireplace? Think about the carbon monoxide. Make sure your detector is working.”

      Alternate heat sources are crucial in severe weather, especially when the source does not require electricity to operate, Hallenbeck said.

     “If one of your alternate heat sources is a generator, it sounds kind of like a given, don’t have your generator in the garage have the generator outside,” he said as a precaution. “We have had people who have been overcome with the carbon monoxide because they kept a generator enclosed.”

      If the power outage occurs at night, the best way to prepare is to have extra blankets, a power source for lighting and food.

     “Don’t forget your pets,” Hallenbeck said. “If you are a person with extra medical needs, don’t forget that when you are preparing for the winter season.”

       A part of preparedness is making a plan outside of the house. This means knowing where the warming centers are, Hallenbeck said.

     “A warming center is a place you can go in the winter for a short-term period,” Hallenbeck said. “It is not an overnight shelter that has life necessity stuff like showering and/or food. It is a place that has power, warmth and if your power will be out for a short period of time you can go there and just sit tight.”

      Several warming centers on post are the neighborhood centers found within the housing areas.

     “Most of the warming centers are designated as the neighborhood centers (and) the ACS (Army Community Service) building up on the (Custer) hill,” Hallenbeck said. “Riley’s Conference Center is one of the larger ones.”

      If the installation experiences a large, long-term power outage longer than five hours, Riley’s Conference Center will be used, he said.

     “If it’s a long term power outage,” he said. “Think about your food source, your water sources, heating for your family members, heating for your children and pets.”

      For those who travel during the winter months, Hallenbeck and Douglas encourage a vehicle kit in all privately owned vehicles.

     “Some of the key things if you’re traveling is tell at least two friends or family members where you are going and what time you’re going to leave,” Hallenbeck said. “It’s just good for somebody to know in case you find yourself stranded.”

      All Soldiers who are traveling over the holiday season or anytime, must fill out a Travel Risk Planning System Assessment.

     “TRiPS Assessment is no more than a series of questions to make sure that you double checked all the risks of travel,” Douglas said.

     The types of questions the assessment asks are: “Will you be driving a privately owned motor vehicle or motorcycle?” It also asks for basic information, vehicle information and the route that will be taken.

     “It’ll ask you what time of the day will you be traveling,” Douglas said. “It will ask you what kind of vehicle you have, how far are you going. It’ll give you maps. It’ll tell you when it recommends that you take rest and offer recommendation of cities that are at the vicinity that you can rest at.”

      For the POVs and the household, Douglas and Hallenbeck recommend kits that are designed for severe weather.

     “We combine our list with the Kansas Department of Transportation to make a list for the car kit,” Hallenbeck said. “Definitely have a car kit. Some people may say I don’t travel a lot, but if you travel out to work long distances you might find yourself on the side of the road. So it’s a good thing to have.”

      Douglas’ and her team design POV checklist brochures that provide information on how to properly prepare one’s POV for the winter months.

     “Our biggest thing as far as awareness goes is to have a handy little checklist to make sure that you have something in hand that you can look at as you check your vehicle,” Douglas said. “One of the things that we really talk about in our lane of safety is making sure your vehicle has a preparedness kit so that if something does happen and you’re stuck out in the weather, you are able to survive during that time.”

      Survival is the main goal for both the safety office and the emergency managers.

      From information provided by the Fort Riley garrison command safety office, when winterizing vehicles the key components are as follows:


                Get your car serviced now: have the entire vehicle checked thoroughly for leaks, bad worn hoses, or other needed parts, repairs and replacements

                Check the car battery voltage

                Check the cooling system: coolant does freeze and expands, therefore the expansion can potentially damage vehicle’s engine block

                Fill the vehicle’s windshield washer reservoir, check windshield wipers and defrosters

                Check tire pressure and make sure the tire is filled to manufacturer’s recommended inflation tire


      Household kits are customizable based off your family’s needs, size and where you live, Hallenbeck said.

     “Are you going to need blankets?” Hallenbeck asked. “Portable lamps? How are you going to keep your family warm? Long term, do you have to go to a shelter or stay at the house? A lot of the people we’ve found will stay at their house because on average their houses were not freezing, but in the 50s and 60s (degrees Fahrenheit). But we’ve sheltered a few people, so knowing where the shelters are if you had to go.”

      The top item emergency kits should have are the portable battery packs because everyone does a lot on their phones.

      “Nowadays, that is one of the things I encourage people to have because we want to use our phone and as soon as they go dead (we can’t),” Hallenbeck said.

      Items in the kit should reflect the length of power outage.

     “It’s more of ‘how am I going to have power?’” he said. “How am I going to have food if I’m going to be here for a long time, lighting — do I have enough flashlights, enough batteries, communication — am I going to have power if my phone runs out and how am I going to receive information so a charged radio is a good thing to have so it operates on battery and you can charge it or back up.”

     For those who need a household, POV kit or work kit, the Army and Air Force Exchange Services Post Exchange near the Fort Riley Commissary sells prepared kits, he said.

     “Our AAFES sells a lot of this stuff and any of the large vendors will have them,” Hallenback said. “We recommend the prepackaged kits.”

     Final stop is an action plan. Hallenbeck and his team will set up a booth at the AAFES with brochures and man power the week before Thanksgiving. Tentatively the booth with be up all week but someone will be available to answer questions Nov. 21 or 22.

     “We are planning on a booth a week before Thanksgiving and it will be at AAFES down at the main PX area,” Hallenbeck said. “And we usually just set it up there and will man it for a few hours. It will be set up for a few days unmanned, but all the information will be there for someone to grab them if needed. All of our phone numbers will be there.”

      At the booth will be an examples of kits, especially a backpack kit filled with the essentials for three days.

     “We have the one we use at our displays which is a backpack kit,” he said. “And it has the main necessities in there — three days of the major necessity — it’s easy to carry, it’s easy if you have children. You can put that on the kid’s back and that’s what they carry.”

      For more information about severe weather safety visit the website For more information about severe weather preparedness visit Ready Army’s booth the week before Thanksgiving or the website

      For local Fort Riley Ready Army information visit


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