Systems focus aimed toward protection of DoDEA students
Story and photo by Greg Mitchell, FLEACT, Yokosuka Public Affairs
Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka recently completed the trouble shooting of the Nile C. Kinnick High School Internal Voice (IT) Mass Warning Notification System (MWNS), effectively allowing for full voice notification capabilities within the school campus, controlled through the same control unit interface in the Emergency (EOC), serving as a base outdoor ‘Giant Voice’ system.
Currently, Kinnick is the only school at Yokosuka Base with the Giant Voice system; a plan is in place for the eventual installation of the same system in The Sullivans and Yokosuka Middle School. Ikego Elementary at Ikego Housing Detachment has one that is operated by their security department while Byrd Elementary does not, due to the distance from the main base and its imminent shutdown.
“The purpose of this system is to flat out provide notification; a voice outside,” said FLEACT Yokosuka Emergency Management Officer, Jeff Lindaman. “No matter the condition – be it lockdown for a disturbance in the school, tsunami or any other types of natural disasters, this system is designed to give the school that necessary edge to get the students to safety.”
‘Giant Voice’ has several advantages working in its favor; most noticeable is that the system covers a large area. It is highly intrusive and some call boxes have loudspeakers installed on them for improved coverage of parking lots, intramural fields, bike trails and other remote areas not easily reached by other means of communication. Speakers for the system are strategically placed throughout the installation; a total of nine are operated straight from the FLEACT Yokosuka Emergency Operations Center.
Even still, the system is not without faults.
Depending on weather conditions, there are dead spots, and challenges with voice intelligibility, aesthetics (depending on type, speakers can be very large), portable solutions can be expensive, and unintended message recipients such as neighbors in close residential areas.
Even though it has some shortcomings, for Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) staff members on Yokosuka base, the system appears very effective in distributing warning signs, with the recent tsunami drill serving as a platform for success.
“The drill worked brilliantly,” said Nile C. Kinnick Principal Emillie Lee. “It’s really comforting to know that we are going to hear those announcements. In the past with the previous system, we weren’t able to hear that well, so we are delighted that we can put out our safety plans more effectively and we definitely feel more secure with this system in action.”
The exercise began with an earthquake simulation where students from each campus had to perform duck and cover procedures prior to departing the facility on to Third Avenue, meeting at their primary evacuation point atop of the hill of Vandergrift Lane.
“What we did was what would be a combined evacuation drill, due to the earthquakes and tsunamis we have here in Japan,” said schools emergency drill event coordinator, Margie Youngblood. “We wanted to combine with all the schools on Yokosuka because in that way we could get a realistic picture of where our weaknesses are, where our strengths were and how we can improve the plan with all three of the schools going at the same time.”
Youngblood felt that the drill was very successful due to a collaborative effort of both the staff and faculty, as well as the students, from the smallest to the oldest.
“Being the overall event coordinator, I thought the drill went really well,” said FLEACT Yokosuka Assistant Training Officer, Lt. Dennis Lomibao. “The focus of the whole drill besides the objective of getting all the kids up the hill was the safety of the kids and I think all of the objectives were met really well.”
Organizers also felt tenant command participation was key in the success of the event as well.
“Our staffs’ appreciation for the first responders – from security and the fire department to other base entities such as U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka is unlimited,” said Lee. “Lastly, Capt. Glenister’s dedication to having a successful evolution enabled us to have a solid drill that we all can learn from.”
In the end, military support groups and school staff members both agree that planning for a disaster starts in the homes of service members, DOD civilians and their families who all are an active part of the installation.
“It is really important that each family follows their own family plan and if you don’t, then they should say to themselves that maybe it is time for us to get something put together,” said Lee. “We want parents to have some comfort in the first few minutes of a real catastrophe in that the students are being taken care of and that the parents would know what the plan is, and that they know where to pick them up safely,” said Lee. “But Parents need to remember the importance of maintaining an up-to-date family plan that has every family member actively engaged. As we all who were here experienced with March 11th, anything can happen at any given moment.”
For more information with regards to disaster preparation, visit the Navy Ready website at: https://www.ready.navy.mil/make_a_plan/emergency_actions/massnotification.html