Base, community collaborate to ensure safe, effective emergency response

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
Planning, responding and recovering from any emergency or weather-related disaster requires a strong group effort.  

In the Emergency Management Flight here, close communication between base and local emergency management representatives ensures a plan is always in place, according to Mark Martinez, Installation Emergency Manager. 

A recent example of that coordination was the 2015 Independence Day Celebration at the Museum of Aviation - an annual event that usually occurs at McConnell Talbert Stadium. 

Base, local community, and state agencies - including law enforcement and medical personnel, to responders from the Houston County 911 Center and 116th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team - were all in place. 

Planned events like that happen regularly in this area, with another large one coming up later this year - the Robins Air Force Base Air Show in October. 

When it comes to severe weather, a few things happen behind the scenes. Take last week's wintry conditions across the state. While portions of Middle Georgia saw a light dusting of snow and ice into the early morning hours of Jan. 23, the Atlanta metro area and northern counties received much more.

"When we have inclement weather expected to hit the state, the Houston County Emergency Operations Center will have a meeting," said Martinez, referring to a location near the Houston County Sheriff's Office. 

The local EOC - comprised of city and county leaders, law enforcement and fire department agencies, city departments such as public works, and medical, school board and base reps - will teleconference with state emergency management agency personnel. 

The National Weather Service in Peachtree City provided a weather brief which included the potential impact on the state, Martinez said.

What happens during those discussions is the 78th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight provides specific weather impacts to Robins, Houston County and central Georgia locations. 

Following meetings in the community, information is then brought back to base leadership for further discussion with mission partners. 

Engagement in the community provide a venue for brainstorming as potential issues can be brought up with the local school board for example, effecting families at Robins. What if school is let out early during the afternoon or there's a delayed start time the next day due to potential icy road conditions? 

City departments are on board too. Public works may inquire about road and bridge impacts in the area. If it's expected, appropriate action can be taken early on. 

Remember the winter storm that came through the area in January 2014, the rare snow and ice shock that stranded portions of the interstate in Atlanta? At Robins, dropping temperatures led to discussions of possible base closure, delayed reporting and re-opening of the base to personnel.  

That weather did eventually makes its way into the area with a few inches of snow, which brought with it freezing rain and icy conditions. 

Much of what happens in the community is mirrored inside the gates. Robins operates its own emergency center. When base exercises are conducted, the EOC includes base units which support the incident commander to ensure resources and manning are available to protect lives and property. 

The giant voice mass notification system used on base each Wednesday mirrors the alert system in the community, which is activated every other Saturday. 

Dissemination is key, said Martinez, whether it's meeting with emergency management officials in the community or inside the gates. 

"It's good for us to have situational awareness of what the county is doing and vice versa," he said. "We will get asked what Robins is doing because we have over 20,000 employees that live in the area. It's a good exchange of information."