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Tornado survival training saved lives, Fort Leonard Wood commander says

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Jan. 1, 2011) — Maj. Gen. David Quantock called it a “godsend” that despite 159 houses being damaged or destroyed, nobody was hurt and only four people suffered minor injuries.

During a Saturday afternoon press conference, Quantock credited the fact that many people were away from post on the Christmas block leave commonly known as Exodus. However, he also credited training and preparation given to soldiers and their families, many of whom may be from parts of the United States where tornados aren’t common.

“Some of this tornado training was also a big deal,” Quantock said. “Of the families we’ve been able to talk to, one in particular ran into a hallway; one ran into a closet. The only thing standing in that house was the closet and that’s where his little child, his wife and he were during the entire storm and were able to weather it out.”

Other factors, Quantock said, included the “giant voice” loudspeaker system which was blaring warnings of the impending tornado. Sirens also sounded about 15 minutes before the storm struck.

“I think that allowed some folks to seek cover and saved some lives,” Quantock said.

Quantock said the post regularly issues public service announcements informing its residents what to do.

“There are all kinds of plans of what to do, what will take place if that happens,” Quantock said. “I think that training comes in handy when you live in this part of the United States.”

An example of training that may have saved lives was that of Fort Leonard Wood’s staff judge advocate, the post’s top lawyer, whose home was destroyed along with almost everything inside.

“He saw the funnel cloud heading toward his house and got into an inner hallway with his two girls, his wife, and the two family cats, and was able to survive,” Quantock said.

Plans for tornado preparation don’t include basements, however, for most on-post housing.

“We’ve always had procedures based on weather alerts … for individuals to find out the weather status,” Quantock said. “There are many places for them to go, from our headquarters building to all through post where there are safe places for them to find shelter. However this storm was so fast moving and so fast developing there were only 15 minutes between when we got the notification and when it hit.”

In the absence of basements, the safest places to go are usually bathrooms and inside hallways, Quantock said, and servicemembers are trained to use them.

“At the end of the day, that is what saved a few of the families that I know of,” Quantock said.

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