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The City of Derby will no longer operate or promote a public storm shelter program, effective immediately. Instead, city officials encourage residents to develop plans to shelter in place during severe weather.
The City has operated an official storm shelter program since 2018 and for several years worked with a few area churches and Fire Station 82 to help provide a shelter. The program relies on volunteers to help open and oversee the storm shelters. Since initiating the program in 2018 the City has had challenges in messaging to the public when the storm shelters are going to be open and has been unable to recruit enough volunteers to ensure that shelters would be able to opened and staffed for operation during a tornado event.
“Volunteers and messaging have been the biggest challenges we have had with this program,” said City Manager Kiel Mangus. “Our efforts to recruit additional volunteers have not been fruitful which has led to inconsistent messaging on when or where we could open a public shelter. Our biggest concern is that someone would show up during a storm and we might not be open. Operationally, if we can’t be reliable then we are putting our community at risk.”
Many communities in the Midwest have moved away from operating public shelters due to several risk factors, the main factor being the dangers people face when traveling to a shelter during a tornadic event. A vehicle is one of the riskiest places to be during a tornado. Other factors include shelter capacity limitations, shelter availability to be opened at all times of day or at a moment’s notice, and shelter construction standards (FEMA rating).
Residents instead are encouraged to stay alert for changing weather conditions and have multiple ways to stay informed, including a NOAA weather radio, local media outlets and weather alerts, and listen for outdoor warning devices. Residents should develop a plan for severe weather, and plan ahead rather than waiting when severe conditions are forecast. Plans could include identifying a safe location within your home, business or neighborhood where you can take shelter in a matter of seconds. This typically would be on the lowest level of a building and in a small, central room without windows.
Those without adequate shelter in their home or residents in mobile or manufactured homes should plan ahead when severe weather is forecast and communicate directly with friends, neighbors, area churches, or other entities with whom you could take shelter and work to take shelter early. Don’t get stuck traveling during severe weather events.
For more information on severe weather preparedness and safety please visit www.sedgwickcounty.org/emergency-management/severe-weather-safety or https://derbyks.com/weather.