Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
Facing an unimaginable tragedy like the one that in Joplin, MO in 2011 and most recently in Moore, OK earlier this week, brings to mind questions about safety in our hometown of Eudora. Facebook follower Lori Durrant posed the following question:
Does anyone know if the storm shelter located at the Eudora Elementary School is available to the community during a tornado warning?
We talked to Kristin Magette, Communications Director for the Eudora School District who gave us the following response:
“The FEMA shelter at Eudora Elementary School is available only for use by people (students, staff, volunteers, guests) who are within the building when school is in session, or during an event being held at EES outside of school hours,” Magette said via email. “This policy is based on advice from Douglas County Emergency Management and has been in place ever since the shelter was built. They insist that people absolutely need to stay put and shelter in place in a tornado warning — not leave their home and try to get to a shelter.”
We also talked to multiple city officials and all stated there currently are no FEMA approved shelter run by the city. Following the Joplin tornado, while the plans were being formed for the city’s new Public Safety Building, there was some discussion as to possibly putting some type of shelter into the building. Those plans never materialized as FEMA regulations about public shelters are very specific and usually very costly. In 2008 as construction of Eudora Elementary School was being planned, they received a federal grant of $566,000 to build the cafeteria area into a FEMA approved shelter. That space was designed to hold the student body and staff of the elementary school.
“The thing to do is find the best possible location in your home if a tornado would strike,” Eudora Fire Chief Ken Keiter told us. “It may not be the ideal location (from a safety standpoint), but the best possible protection available may be the key to saving your life.” Keiter did not recommend trying to travel to a location if a tornado would be imminent.
Keiter also recommended All-Hazard Weather radios. These radios will not only activate during weather related emergencies but also with man-made events as well. He also mentioned the simple idea of getting to know your neighbors. Multiple stories came out of Moore, OK where people survived the devastating EF5 tornado by going to their neighbors house who had a basement or a storm shelter.
In 2011, then Police Chief Grady Walker gave us the following tips for storm preparedness. Current Police Chief Bill Edwards reviewed these tips and concurs that they are still valuable.
-To prepare your household, pick a room where household members as well as pets can stay safe. Ideally, the room should be in a basement or underground shelter. If that’s not available, pick a room in the interior of the house with no windows. Create a household tornado drill and make sure everyone knows what to do.
-And don’t forget to practice your drill. Put together an emergency stockpile kit and store it somewhere you can best access it during an emergency.
-In preparing for tornadoes, secure large appliances, such as the water heater, as well as large, top-heavy pieces of furniture. Mark where utility switches are located so that they can be turned off if you have enough time. Consider storing important documents or copies of documents in a fire and waterproof safe.
-If you’ll need help during an emergency, ask someone nearby if she or he will assist you. Think about giving that person a spare key to your home in case of such emergencies.
FEMA has more information on it’s web site about things people can do to prepare themselves in the event of a tornado.
The Douglas County Emergency Management Department also has several pieces of information on their website. At the site, you can sign up for the Immediate Response Information System (IRIS) which is a call notification system being utilized by Douglas County to provide residents with health and safety information including weather alerts sent by the National Weather Service in Topeka. The messages can be voice, email and/or text messages. The IRIS system is provided free of charge. Note: Text message rates may apply depending on your mobile phone service plan.
Another tip that we were told by Walker after the Joplin tornado and wanted to again pass along: Cell phone towers may go down and communication can be limited, but texting should continue to work even with the loss of cell towers. You may not be able to call someone with your cell phone, but you should be able to get a text message through.