Archive for Thursday, April 2, 2009

Stormy weather

With severe spring weather here again, City Administrator Jeff Dingman answers questions about the warning system for Baldwin City.

With severe spring weather here again, City Administrator Jeff Dingman answers questions about the warning system for Baldwin City.

April 2, 2009

Severe weather preparedness

1. What is the process that goes on for notifying the City of Baldwin City for severe weather?

Douglas County’s Department of Emergency Management has the biggest role in the public warning system for severe weather. During times of potential severe weather, they use a network of storm spotters, monitor the weather radios, and are in constant contact with the National Weather Service office in Topeka via a direct line. There is a wealth of information on the services offered by the Department of Emergency Management on the Douglas County Web site.

2. When are the tornado sirens sounded as a result of that process?

The outdoor warning sirens for Baldwin City are activated by the Douglas County Emergency Management office when the National Weather Service issues a “Tornado Warning” or when a local determination is made that a tornado threat to the area exists. Local determination is made by the Emergency Management staff and is based on information from the NWS, weather radar, and reports from trained weather spotters or law enforcement officers. Emergency Management’s on-call officer makes the decision to activate the sirens. The sirens are activated from the Emergency Management Operations Center, and are used to signal a “take cover” warning. The sirens are most effective in notifying people who are outdoors, they often times cannot be heard by persons indoors. This is one reason why the Emergency Management Office recommends that people rely on several sources for weather information, including television and radio, and not solely count on the weather sirens to tell them to take cover. There is no “all clear” signal issued by the Emergency Management Operations Center.

3. Where are the tornado sirens located around the city?

Douglas County’s outdoor warning siren system consists of 35 sirens placed strategically throughout the county. There are three sirens located in Baldwin City. One is near the water tower on North Sixth Street, a second is near the intersection of Third and Fremont streets, and the third is on High Street near the Baldwin Feed Company

4. When are the tornado sirens tested on a regular basis and what may cause those tests to be delayed, postponed or canceled?

The tests generally occur at noon on the first Monday during the months of August through February, and on the first and third Monday during the months of March through July. Additionally, an automated silent communication test of each siren is conducted each morning at 9 a.m. by the Emergency Management office’s computer software. The office may forego a scheduled test if there is a potential for severe weather at the time of a regular test.

5. What emergency shelters are available for Baldwin City residents and what is the process for opening those for public use?

There is no storm shelter available for the general public to use at the present time. Residents are encouraged to plan ahead for where they and their family might go to wait out severe weather. Pre-arrange accommodations with neighbors, friends and family who may have substantial structures or basements in which to seek refuge. Although the Public Health and Safety Committee and city staff recognize the need for a public storm shelter, the city does not own a structure that can accommodate this need. A few local facilities have been cooperative in discussing formal arrangements to accommodate the public. Logistical concerns regarding communication, opening, closing and monitoring facilities for public use, particularly after hours, have complicated the process. These are matters that can be resolved.


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