Officials prepare for spring storms
By ANGIE HAFLICH
Awareness and preparedness are the key words next week concerning severe weather that is typical of springtime in Kansas.
As part of the state’s Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 3 through 9, Finney County Emergency Management will be hosting Storm Spotter training sessions on March 4, as well as conducting tests of emergency notifications sirens on March 5.
Gov. Sam Brownback will be signing a proclamation on Friday, designating March 3 through 9 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Kansas, which coincides with the national Severe Weather Awareness week. The goal is to urge Kansans to start thinking about springtime emergency preparedness, according to a press release from the state Adjutant General’s Office.
“We hope that every Kansan has already prepared a home emergency kit and devised an emergency plan,” said Angee Morgan, deputy director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “However, if they haven’t, this would be the perfect time to do so and make sure you and your family are ready for severe weather.”
As part of increasing awareness and preparedness, Finney County Emergency Management will be hosting Storm Spotter training sessions. The National Weather Service of Dodge City will be conducting the free sessions from 3 to 7 p.m. March 4 in the grandstand meeting room at the Finney County Fairgrounds, 209 Lake Ave.
“He’s going to cover the same material, but we’re just going to have them at different times, so if people can’t make it to the 3 p.m., they can come after work,” Gilbert Valerio, assistant coordinator at Finney County Emergency Management, said. “It will be about recognizing storms, trying to tell the difference between if that’s just a bad cloud or if that’s really a tornado that needs to be reported.”
In addition to the training sessions, Valerio said a test of emergency sirens also will be conducted.
“It’s Tuesday where we test the sirens ... Last year, we had to use some of the fire department to cover all the sirens in the county, and then they would let us know if (any of the sirens) were working or not. And if they weren’t working, we’d contact the city and they would send someone out to look at them to see if they were really not operational, what we needed to do to fix them,” he said.
He added that the department has encouraged area schools to conduct tornado drills that day.
“We kind of like to encourage like the school district; that would be a day where they could practice their tornado drill,” Valerio said.
In terms of preparedness at home, Morgan said a home emergency kit should include everything needed for a family to survive a minimum of three days without power or heat. Kits should include one gallon of water per person, per day; nonperishable, high-energy foods; a battery-powered NOAA weather radio; flashlights; extra batteries; an alternative heat source; blankets; medications and other essentials.
Additionally, Morgan said, people should have emergency plans in place before severe weather strikes.
“Make sure everyone in the family knows the plan,” Morgan said. “If you don’t have a specially constructed storm shelter, make sure everyone knows where the safe spot is in your home. Designate a place to meet in case you become separated. Review safety rules regarding downed power lines and broken gas lines. The idea is to think about what it will take to keep everyone safe and put that into your plan. Then practice it.”
For additional information about preparing an emergency kit, visit www.ksready.gov.
The county emergency management department also has a Facebook page, Finney County Kansas Emergency Management and Health Department, where weather information and updates are posted.