Hurricane teaches Airman value of preparedness

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

Each year millions of people are threatened by hurricanes. In 2015, 25,415 people died in natural disasters, according to CNN. One Airman has survived several encounters with tragic incidents through proper planning and preparedness.

Tech. Sgt. Jamal Kareem, a 354th Fighter Wing quality assurance program coordinator, grew up in Georgia where he and his family rode out several hurricanes, impacting his family and community.

“When I was about 13 years old, my mother bought a house in Dallas, Georgia,” said Kareem. “That October, Hurricane Opal made landfall and caused several trees to fall on our house, leaving us without power for a week and flooding our neighborhood.”

After the storm cleared, Kareem and his family were unable to get around their neighborhood due to the flooding and were unable to reach family members who lived nearby.

“We stocked up on food before the storm and because we had a gas stove we were still able to cook without electricity, but each time we wanted to open the fridge we’d plan out everything we would need so we could keep the remaining food as cold as possible,” Kareem said. “We also still had running water so that wasn’t an issue for us.”

Through this experience Kareem says he learned the importance of being prepared for disasters, a lesson he brought with him to Alaska. Although the risk of a hurricane is minimal, but there are still very real threats such as frigid temperatures, avalanches, and summer wildfires.

“I make sure to pack my vehicle with survival kits that include water, blankets, jumper cables, nonperishable food, and extra clothes,” said Kareem. “It gets cold here; at 50 below you really do have to be ready to go.”

While each disaster from blizzards to hurricanes will have its own unique set of problems, having supplies and a plan can go a long way in keeping your family safe during emergencies.

“Disasters can happen anywhere, whether you’re five minutes from base or out in the wilderness you should always be prepared,” said Technical Sgt. Ashley Pascas, NCOIC Occupational Safety. “Learn the skills you may need in those situations and have a kit ready, it could be the difference between life and death.”

To help Airmen and families prepare for the winter, Eielson is holding a town hall Oct. 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Ernie Walker Theater.