AtHoc Alerts

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Michael Chancey
  • 460th Civil Engineer Squadron

Have you received an emergency notification and were not sure what to do with that information? Do you know what actions to take when you hear a tornado warning? Are you receiving AtHoc alerts? What’s the difference between lockdown and shelter in-place? Are you signed up for local emergency alerts for the City/County you live in vs only Buckley SFB?

If you aren’t quite sure what the answers to those questions are, keep reading to learn more and stay informed during emergencies.  

Buckley SFB employs something called the Emergency Warning and Notification System (EWNS) to inform everyone on a military installation about an imminent or ongoing emergency. Most people simply refer to it as AtHoc, but it’s more than one system. It’s comprised of a family of systems that include the use of telephone, text, email, desktop popup alerts, and outdoor speakers commonly referred to the “Giant Voice”. Some facilities also use indoor speakers, strobes lights, and even colored flags in some instances. These are all tools designed to notify you that an emergency or dangerous situation is occurring and directing you to take action to sustain critical missions and prevent injury or even death.

The installation EWNS complies with DHS, FEMA, DoD Meteorology and Oceanography and/or the National Weather Service, the Emergency Alert System alerting terminology, methods, requirements, and capabilities. The table below defines some of the standardized warning signals you might hear through giant voice systems.





Incident, Accident, or Disaster

3- to 5-minute steady tone on sirens or long steady blasts on horns, whistles, or similar devices.

A disaster/incident is Imminent or In Progress. Potential or confirmed hazard exists to public health, safety, or property.

Be Alert. Monitor smart phone, local radio, TV, or cable stations for emergency information. Listen to MWNSs for additional instructions. Be prepared to evacuate or immediately SIP, move to safe haven, or take other appropriate protective actions.

Active Shooter

“Lockdown, Lockdown, Lockdown”

Active shooter incident in progress.

Remain calm and hide, flight, or fight. Implement lockdown procedures based on location.

WMD or CBRNE Attack

3- to 5-minute wavering tone on sirens or other devices.

WMD or CBRNE attack is imminent or in progress or the arrival of nuclear fallout is imminent.

Proceed immediately to designated safe havens, SIP, or take other appropriate actions. Listen for additional instructions.

All Clear

Declared verbally by local official agencies.

Immediate disaster or threat has ended.

Remain alert. Initiate recovery actions (e.g., report injuries, hazards, and damage) or resume normal operations as directed.


In addition to those simple messages, you should receive more detailed information about the emergency from AtHoc which will further inform you about the hazards and basic actions to take during that emergency.

The National Weather Service provides the majority of the weather notifications to the Command Post to implement the EWNS, for things such as high winds, lightning, rainfall, hail and snowfall. In rarer cases, you might also see tornado watches or warnings.

  • If you hear a specific weather hazard followed by “Watch” it means that specific hazard is possible in your area (i.e. The NWS issues a Tornado Watch when weather conditions in an area indicate an increased risk for severe weather that may be capable of producing a tornado). In general, you should take actions to prepare yourself for that type of emergency and remain cautious about going outdoors into that potential hazard environment. 
  • If you hear a specific weather hazard followed by “Warning” it means that specific hazard is occurring or will occur in your area (i.e. The NWS issues a Tornado Warning when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. A warning means you should take shelter immediately). You should take immediate action to find safety and remain there until the warning ends.

In the event of most weather-related emergencies, the best course of action is to remain indoors, away from windows and find a room or area that can provide protection from the weather hazards. If you are in a car or out walking, find a sturdy structure nearby to seek shelter in.  

There are other types of hazards that are generally man-made, such as active shooters, fires, gas leaks, or even hazardous materials vehicle accidents that can all occur near or on base and lead to other warnings and required actions.

First responders will provide the best course of action to protect the base populous and push this info to the Command Post during these emergencies, who will then employ the EWNS for maximum dissemination across the base. These are public safety orders and need to be followed to prevent further injury, death or to prevent the obstruction of emergency response operations. These might include lockdown, shelter in-place or evacuation.

  • Lockdown means an Active Shooter incident is in progress. You will hear or read “Lockdown, Lockdown, Lockdown” and if known, the area of the shooting. You should remain calm and run, hide or fight, based on location and follow all first responder guidance. 
  • Shelter In-Place (SIP) means there is potential for a hazardous materials release or it has already occurred and a hazard exists. You will hear or read “Shelter In-Place” and if known, the areas that are impacted, and places you should avoid. You should remain calm, stay indoors, close windows/doors, shut off the facility HVAC and stay in the center rooms, upper floors of the facility to reduce exposure to the hazardous material vapors.
  • Evacuation means your location or facility, is in a potentially or actually dangerous location, either from fire, hazardous materials, explosives, damaged facility, utilities or other situations deemed unsafe. You should remain calm, follow your facility’s evacuation plan and immediately go to your designated evacuation location, unless given another specific location by first responders. 

The best thing to do in any case is to follow the directions provided in the message, if it differs from these standard default messages. Local responders and the command post will do their best to provide you with the most accurate and safest course of action during any emergency.

Now take a minute to learn how to stay informed, by receiving AtHoc alerts. If you are not sure how to update your contact info, follow these steps:

  1. From a government computer, open AtHoc Self Service by opening the system tray next to the “clock” and find the white and purple AtHoc icon that looks like the planet Saturn,
  2. Click “Access Self Service”.
  3. From that website you will be able to update and add numerous email addresses, telephone, and cellphone numbers for AtHoc to notify you.
  4. Don’t forget to hit save at the top when you are done. That’s it! Or is it?

You very likely don’t live on Buckley SFB, so how do you get emergency notifications for where you and your loved ones live and work?

  1. Visit the Colorado Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (CO DHSEM) website:
  2. Scroll down to find the specific county you live in. For example, if you live in Arapahoe County, you’ll see a link next to Arapahoe County that says “Arapahoe Alerts”
  3. Click on your counties Alert System link to find the sign-up page.
  4. Simply enter your contact information and hit save and now you’re ready to stay informed through your specific off-base Emergency Alert System.  

Additionally, the Department of the Air Force employs standardized Attack Warning Signals in the form of color codes for a nation-state or large-scale attack that is directed at military installations. This would be the worst-case scenario, like a strategic attack between nuclear powers. While not as likely as a Tornado, the basic knowledge of what these mean and what actions to take is still very valuable.

  • Alarm Green, attack is not probable, day to day operations
  • Alarm Yellow, attack is probable in less than 30 minutes
  • Alarm Red - Air Attack, attack is imminent by aircraft or missiles
  • Alarm Red - Ground Attack, attack is imminent by ground forces
  • Alarm Black, attack is over, but hazards might exist, such as contamination or unexploded ordnance

The Be Ready visual aid for Attack Warning Signals provides some basic steps for actions to take under each of these conditions. In this scenario, there will also be additional messaging to accompany this type of escalation provided through the chain of command.

If you would like to learn more about the information in this article, visit or contact the 460th Civil Engineer Office of Emergency Management at 847-6722.