02 November 2016
Fort Detrick Prepares for Old Man Winter
Lanessa Hill, USAG Public Affairs
Winter weather is just around the corner. In preparation of the inevitable snow to come, Fort Detrick held its annual Winter Weather Conference at the Community Activities Center Oct. 28. The conference intent each year is to inform the Fort Detrick community on how the U.S. Army Garrison will notify employees of operational status and snow removal processes, as well as request assistance from tenants and units on the installation.

A recent National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration press release forecasts that La Niña is expected to influence winter conditions this year. The Climate Prediction Center issued a La Niña watch this month, predicting the climate phenomenon is likely to develop in late fall or early winter. La Niña favors drier, warmer winters in the southern U.S. and wetter, cooler conditions in the northern U.S. Maryland falls into the “equal chance” category, meaning that there is not a strong enough climate signal in these areas to shift the odds, so they have an equal chance for above, near or below normal temperatures and/or precipitation.

“Regardless of the outlook, there is always some chance for extreme winter weather,” said Deputy Director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center Mike Halpert. “So, prepare now for what might come later this winter.”


The decision to change the installation operational status is not taken lightly and involves many people. Once a decision is made by leadership, the Public Affairs Office and Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Safety swiftly move into action.

First, the PAO will update social media sites. If you are on Facebook, follow us at Fort Detrick USAG or on Twitter @DetrickUSAG. Next, the weather hotline will be updated, (301) 619-7611, followed by the Fort Detrick website and local media, to include television and radio stations in the Maryland, D.C., Baltimore and Pennsylvania areas. The DPTMS will also notify individuals through the AtHoc alert system. If you are not familiar with AtHoc, this is a notification system designated to send alerts to registered users. Army employees can login and update their contact information by clicking on the purple globe on the bottom right of their computer screens and selecting “update my info.” If you would like to be added to this system but do not have access from your network, please contact the Emergency Manager at (301) 619-3366 to be manually added.

At this year’s conference, the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center provided comments relating to operational statuses for Fort Detrick and Forest Glen, stating that Forest Glen falls within the National Capital Region, therefore follows the Office of Personnel Management decision. Unlike Forest Glen, Fort Detrick does not follow the OPM decision, the decision lies with the installation’s senior commander. The CPAC also stressed the importance of being proactive and preparing the necessary documentation to allow for telework if your command permits this. Beth Shearer, director of the CPAC, also discussed the differences between a delayed arrival and delayed opening. Delayed arrival means individuals should arrive at work the allotted amount of time later than their normal start time. So, if the decision is a two-hour delayed arrival, a person who normally starts at 8 a.m. will now arrive at 10 a.m. A delayed opening means the installation will open at a designated time.


Director of the Logistics Readiness Center Marie O’Brien stressed to employees and leaders that if there are any long-term TDYs scheduled during a known impending storm, to please park personal vehicles in the lot on Amber Meadows Road by the traffic circle and not in the enclosed fenced area.

Snow Removal

Snow will be removed according to priority. Primary roads throughout the installation will be plowed first. The Directorate of Public Works will clear the roads identified as primary roads first, which here at Fort Detrick includes Porter Street, Doughten Drive, Ditto Avenue and gate entrances within 3 to 4 hours after there is at least 4 inches of snow. Next will be the roads designated as secondary, which here include those in housing and at the National Cancer Institute. With that in mind, Fort Detrick USAG Commander Col. Bob O’Brien is requesting all tenants and units that need a certain number of cleared parking spaces, even when the installation is closed because of 24-hour operations, to notify the DPW to ensure they are aware. O’Brien also took this opportunity to remind building managers that shovels and ice melt are available through the DPW and that each building is responsible for clearing their own walkways. Clearing walkways is not provided by the DPW.

Accident Avoidance

Lastly, the Fort Detrick Safety Office reminded everyone to simply be careful. Never reach into a snow blower to clear a clog and always follow the manufacturer instructions; Remember that freezing rain, icy surfaces and snow pose a hazard for not only drivers, but pedestrians as well; Wear appropriate shoes and take your time; Be mindful of black ice, which is difficult to see; and if you slip, trip or fall causing injury to yourself, please report it to the Installation Safety Office by calling (301) 619-7318.
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