Statewide tornado drill urges many to plan a route to safety

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Sixty documented tornadoes touched down in Kansas last year. Yet, despite the dozens of twisters, there were zero deaths attributed to them. Much of that can be credited to early warnings and severe weather preparedness.

Much of that preparedness is coming into focus during Severe Weather Awareness Week, highlighted by Tuesday’s statewide tornado drill. Members of Shawnee Co. Emergency Management got ready early for the 10 a.m. test.

"Our hope is people take a second to at least… think about where they're going to go. Where they're going to shelter if it happened at 10 on a Tuesday,” Emergency Management Director Dusty Nichols said.

Then, at the appointed hour nearly every siren sounded, blaring a loud, “Statewide tornado drill. This is a statewide tornado drill.” And, people at home, at work, or at school all took a moment to practice getting to the safest spot in their building.

"Taking cover. Going into the center part of their homes if they can't put more walls between them and the outside as possible at the lowest level," Nichols said.

McEachron Elementary School teacher Kim Breunning explained how important these drills can be, especially given how fast the weather changes, adding that’s it is a good time to practice because there is not a risk right now. That extra run-through especially helps when there’s a big change to normal procedures, like at Breunning’s school.

"We used to go in the hallway and put our heads down and get on our knees and put our hands over our heads," McEachron student Keimani Paul recalled. But, now there’s a new shelter in the school.

"When we have a tornado, we come to our big gym because it's our tornado shelter," Paul’s classmate Jordan Felsburg said.

Everyone needs to know what to do, because, as Principal Victor Williams explains, they like to get everyone to safety in about a minute or so, “because you don’t have a lot of time with a tornado coming down on a city or town.”

So for everyone, Tuesday’s lesson is a reminder to have a plan.

"So, if you hear a siren this year take cover. It mean business," Nichols added.

During the drill, one of the sirens – the one near Washburn University – failed to go off. Nichols said it was most likely a failed battery. Maintenance crews are working on a plan to repair it.

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