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AtHoc provides critical information

Posted 2/17/2012   Updated 2/17/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Ryan Throneberry
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

2/17/2012 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Imagine a natural disaster rips through Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Mass confusion and panic ensue while everyone is left wondering what to do. Moments later, a text message is sent to every AtHoc Installation Warning System member, providing them with life-saving information.

AtHoc - a network-centric emergency mass-notification system - was installed here at the end of December 2011 and was put into service in early January. Although the system was developed to mitigate events such as the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting incident, it is key to notifying installation personnel during all types of emergencies.

The system sends out mass notifications simultaneously via several platforms including email, cell phones and the giant-voice system. A member must use the purple AtHoc icon to input his or her information into the system in order to receive these notifications. This icon is located on their DOD computer toolbar, left of the clock in the lower right-hand corner. Right-click on the icon, then select "Update My Info," update data in the system. Any personal information provided will only be accessible by AtHoc the operators and administrators.

Personnel accountability is one the critical tools the system also provides. This is accomplished by compiling a list of personnel who were notified, when they were notified and whether those personnel acknowledged the notification.

The system is capable of notifying personnel from a single, centralized, web-based program within minutes of an emergency. Notification types range from force-protection condition changes, anti-terror warnings or natural disaster alerts for approaching tornadoes, hurricanes or other emergency situations.
The AMC command center located at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., also has the ability to make command-wide notifications. As the primary owners of the systems at all AMC bases, command posts will send alerts upon direction from the wing commanders or their representatives. Installation commanders are the final approval authority for local implementation and use.

"Instructions during a chemical attack or an active-shooter scenario could save the lives of joint base community members," said Capt. Jake Hale, Joint Base CP deputy chief.

An important note to remember is this system will notify many people in a short period of time and provide robust notification capabilities, but personnel should still uphold wingman responsibilities to ensure one another's safety and a 100-percent accountability.

"Compared to the previous system, this new one is very easy to use," said Tech. Sgt. Ivan Phillips, Joint Base CP operations chief. "The installers incorporated the system so we could communicate simultaneously with personnel whether they were on McGuire, Dix or Lakehurst. Before, we had to draft two to three different messages which ultimately wasted valuable time."

An alert will have a specific set of instructions to respond to. Users should read the entire alert and/or listen to the entire message then respond accordingly.

The mass notification system on JB MDL has reached many on the Air Force network; however, not all personnel have registered their information in the system. JB MDL members not connected to the Air Force network are not able to register their information in AtHoc at this time though, due to the network limitations.

"Air Mobility Command and JB MDL leadership are looking at solutions to allow other military branches to use this service," said Maj. Nicholas Woodrow, Joint Base Command Post chief. "An online version of AtHoc is being researched, however, there is no implementation date."

Although other service branches on base cannot access AtHoc, there are many other facets of the mass notifications process in place such as the giant voice, the JB MDL Facebook page, the public website, emails, or the join base informational line.

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