Everything you've always wanted to know about hurricanes but were afraid to ask: HURCONs

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Editor's Note: This is part one of a five-part series on hurricane preparedness.

June 1 not only marked the start of a new month but the kickoff of the 2011 hurricane season.

For those new to the hurricane region, the challenge of being prepared can seem very daunting. And for those who have been through these seasons before, the process may seem a bit routine.

However, knowing the different stages of the hurricane conditions and what you can do before the hurricane arrives may not only spare you from a headache but save you and your family's lives.

"Having a plan and executing it are keys to reducing damage, minimizing your frustration and successfully overcoming each hurricane season," said Senior Master Sgt. Jerome DuBose, 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron Readiness and Emergency Management superintendent. "Preparation should include identifying where you and your family would go in the event of a storm, reviewing evacuation routes and identifying shelters in your local area. Now is a great time to start preparing for the storm season."

To give Air Commandos and their families adequate time to prepare for and counter the effects of a hurricane, Hurlburt Field uses the HURCON alert scale to signal the arrival and departure of 50-knot winds near base.

The hurricane conditions begin 72 hours prior to the hurricane's arrival with HURCON 4 until the all-clear is determined by base and community officials in HURCON 1R.

HURCON 4: 72 hours before the arrival of 50-knot or 58-mph winds.
  • Secure any loose items and harden or cover all windows in your homes with plywood if you don't have shutters.
  • Have a communication plan established that will allow you to keep in touch with friends and family.
  • Fuel all vehicles. Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times even if no hurricane is due.
  • Ensure you have adequate cash on hand.
  • Make sure your Disaster Supply Kit is well stocked with food, water, batteries, toiletries and clothing. (Visit the National Hurricane Center website for more information.)
  • Gather important documents or place in a fire/waterproof location.
  • Have a plan for family members with special medical needs.
Sergeant DuBose also urges people to familiarize themselves with the local evacuation routes, including optimal travel times to safer locations and likely traffic conditions.

HURCON 3: 48 hours prior to predicted arrival of 50-knot or 58-mph winds.
  • Monitor local radio and military channels for evacuation orders.
  • Know where the safest areas are within your home if you stay behind during a non-evacuation situation.
The decision whether or not military personnel and their families should evacuate the area will also be determined during HURCON 3. Conditions taken into consideration are the strength and predicted damage of the winds and the proximity to expected landfall.

"Evacuation orders are mandatory," Sergeant DuBose said. "Do not linger or leave pets behind. And keep your contact information in the Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System current as well."

HURCON 2- Non-evacuation: 24 hours prior to predicted arrival of 50-knot or 58-mph winds.
  • Double check all preparation activities, making sure they are complete.
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to their highest setting. Most units can maintain food-preserving temperatures for up to two days without power.
  • Ensure you have a three-day supply of water, meaning one gallon of water per day.
HURCON 1- Non-evacuation: 12 hours prior to predicted arrival of 50-knot or 58-mph winds.
  • Finalize any actions that aren't already complete.
HURCON 1E: 50-knot or 58-mph winds are occurring.
  • Stay in your home or shelter location until community or base officials give further instructions.
HURCON 1R: This is the recovery period after the departure of dangerous conditions. Only emergency response or damage assessment teams are released to move about.

"The base ride-out and recovery teams will assess and repair damage," Sergeant DuBose said. "Police will close roadways where dangers are present, and the base populace should only return from an evacuation when notified by their unit control centers. Once the teams report the findings to the Emergency Operations Center, the EOC will brief the battle staff, and a determination for an all-clear will be made by the wing commander."

In addition to understanding the different HURCON conditions, Sergeant DuBose stressed the need for people to consider all family members including their pets in the planning of any response.

"Ensure provisions are made for special-needs family members, elderly dependents and know where your pets would go during a mandatory evacuation," he said. "Hurlburt Field does not have a pet shelter, but there are many hotels in the local area that are pet-friendly."

So until the 2011 hurricane season is slated to end Nov. 30, Air Commandos and their families can take action to prepare themselves for whatever the weather has to offer.

For more information, contact your unit emergency management representative or the 1st SOCES Readiness & Emergency Management Flight at 884-4304.