Following the tornado in Andover, residents may be concerned about how to stay safe during a weather emergency as severe weather season reaches its peak.
In Eudora, there is no designated place for residents to shelter during a storm, due to a variety of reasons.
“It’s difficult to have public sheltering because of cost and upkeep,” said Robert Bieniecki, director of Douglas County’s Emergency Management Service. “Even in the city of Lawrence, they don’t have designated sheltering.”
For those who live in mobile homes like Grandview Mobile Home Park, finding shelter below ground or without windows may be difficult. Fire Chief Mindy Andrasevits said there isn’t a requirement for landowners to provide a bunker or safe room for mobile home residents.
“If they don’t have access to a basement somewhere close, they do have to shelter in place in an inside room with no windows, cover themselves with a blanket or mattress and ride it out, unfortunately,” Andrasevits said.
Andrasevits said providing a community shelter is not feasible because of maintenance costs. If there was a shelter, she said it would be dangerous for residents to drive to it while severe weather is actively occurring.
School District spokesman Mark Dodge said students can shelter in place at the schools during the day. However, plans are not in place for schools to be used as shelters after-hours.
Schools and churches can be used for shelter after severe weather, if a large number of residents are displaced. Jane Blocher, executive director of the local Red Cross, said there’s an agreement between Douglas County and the Red Cross to provide shelter for displaced residents.
“If residents are displaced, what the Red Cross typically does is to set up a shelter somewhere in the community where residents can come and have a safe place to stay with meals, counseling and basic health services,” Blocher said. “That’s our commitment to every community. We would choose the one that’s closest to the disaster site.”
In the meantime, Blocher shared advice for those who are sheltering in place during a storm.
“Days before severe weather comes in, know where you can go to seek shelter,” Blocher said. “Make sure your cellphone has a full charge, download emergency preparation apps. Get a go-kit that has water, non-perishable food, emergency medications.”
Reach reporter Abby Shepherd at firstname.lastname@example.org