StormReady designation helps ensure all Pantexans remain safe in severe weather

  • Posted: Monday, March 18, 2019, 2:26 pm

The National Weather Service (NWS) recently recertified the Pantex Plant (Pantex) as a StormReady community.

The National Weather Service (NWS) recently recertified the Pantex Plant (Pantex) as a StormReady community.

StormReady is a program that aims to mitigate the loss of life and property related to severe weather, and there are multiple requirements necessary to receive a StormReady designation.

“It requires that Pantex plan for and train our personnel on a number of severe weather-related events, mostly focused toward severe thunderstorms and tornados,” Pantex Emergency Preparedness Specialist Brian Veach said. “We also had to conduct training and drills as well as provide procedures and briefings to the site personnel.”

In addition, Pantex was required to demonstrate multiple methods to receive severe weather watches/warnings and had to show that there were procedures in place to communicate required protective actions to the plant population.

This designation is usually only sought by a city or county as very few companies have the resources and dedication to undertake the process. Because safety is a priority for Pantex, this designation demonstrates that commitment.

“Our drills and exercise program go above and beyond what the Department of Energy requires and really stress severe weather,” Veach said. “It’s not just the large site-wide drills or exercises, but we also run a number of facility-based shelter for severe weather drills.”

In addition to drills, Pantex also offers classes instructed by the NWS on severe weather storm spotting to all Emergency Management Department (EMD), Fire Department, Fire Department Support Team, and building/floor wardens.

Personnel from EMD also visited the local NWS office in Amarillo to increase cooperation and understanding of what information and services could be provided to Pantex.

“We participate in their Weather Ready Nation Ambassador program as well, which means we receive emails from the NWS with seasonal weather information and share that with our personnel on the site,” Veach said. “This helps increase the overall weather knowledge of the entire plant population.”

Part of the process to recertify included personnel attending a severe storm spotting class that trains personnel to recognize severe storm characteristics and report them accurately to the NWS in Amarillo.

Veach said management is committed to keeping personnel safe not only at work, but also at home.

“The information the company provides in training for severe weather is just as applicable at home as it is at work,” he said. “I can carry the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from work to my home, and that helps make my family safer.”

He continued by saying that people are Pantex’s #1 asset, and keeping everyone safe is vitally important to the site mission.

“Knowing how to remain safe when, not if, severe weather affects the plant means we have the skilled, trained, and dedicated personnel to continue our critical national security mission,” Veach said.

Personnel from Emergency Services and the Building Warden Program assisted Emergency Management in accomplishing this recertification.

“The building wardens are an essential part to this,” Veach said. “Emergency Management, and the larger Emergency Services Organization, cannot be everywhere when severe weather arrives. Having the highly skilled wardens available that can extend the reach of Emergency Management helps ensure everyone on the site is taken care of and remains safe.”

Veach also said the Plant Shift Superintendents are the first line of protection in severe weather.

“Those unseen heroes make regular contact with the National Weather Service to keep us all safe,” Veach said. “They play a major role in the site receiving severe weather notifications and directing the appropriate protective actions.”

Pantex was originally designated as StormReady in October 2015, and this was the site’s first full renewal in the program. Pantex was required to go through the entire recertification process, including a visit from the local StormReady board.

“The renewal process requires us to re-demonstrate this commitment to them at three-year intervals, with a spot check halfway through,” Veach said. “StormReady is not a once-and-done thing but a culture that exists on the site thanks to the hard work of a number of personnel including Emergency Services, Emergency Management, and all of our wardens.”