Emergency Management Director talks planning for storms at Concordia Senior Center

Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Concordia Emergency Management Director Jim Mills spoke to the lunch crowd at the Concordia Senior Center on Thursday, May 30. He shared information about severe weather warnings, tornado sirens, and the importance of having a plan for emergencies.
Bob Stewart/The Concordian

During the lunch hour at the Concordia Senior Center on Thursday, May 30, Concordia Emergency Management Director Jim Mills spoke to center patrons about tornado sirens and planning ahead of time for emergency situations.

“Most importantly, have a plan,” Mills said. “Know ahead of time what you are going to do before you hear a warning on the radio or television, or if you hear the sirens. And remember, the sirens are an outdoor warning system only. You might not hear them if you are inside.”

Mills said the city of Concordia currently runs seven tornado sirens. The two newest sirens are located off 13th Street in southeast corner of town and near The Essex in the northwest corner of the city. The remainder are located all around town: one in the Willow East area, one near the north water tower, one at Concordia High School, one at 6th and St. Louis streets, and one near the Good Shepherd Care Community campus.

“Another thing I need to tell you about the sirens is that we do not sound an ‘all clear’ when we have a warning,” Mills said. “You won’t hear an all clear. Our sirens can only run so long and then they have to shut down for a short period of time. If they start back up, that means we are still under that warning. You can only be sure the warning has lifted if and when the sirens don’t come back on.”

If you hear a warning, or are notified of a dangerous weather situation, Mills said, go to the basement of your home, get under something, and protect your head. He said it doesn’t matter which area you go to because tornadoes are coming from any and all directions these days. If you do not have a basement, he suggested going into an interior closet or bathroom and covering up with something like a pillow or heavy blanket.

“You should already have a safe place to go,” he said. “Make sure you have on shoes, because if a tornado or sever storm comes through there will all kinds of debris around that you will have to walk on. Take water and whatever you think you might need with you; you may be there for a while. And if you have something strong, like a bike helmet or work hat, put it on as well. I’ve seen the aftermath or tornadoes, and have seen them in the process, and they do crazy things.”

Mills suggested getting a battery-operated weather radio, which have an alert tone to warn of severe weather watches and warnings. He also said there are apps for many “smart” phones that can be downloaded and which offer a great amount of weather-related information.

“And remember, a ‘watch’ means conditions are favorable for storms or tornadoes to develop, and a ‘warning’ means the storm or tornado is imminent,” he said. “The National Weather Service will not issue a warning if they are not sure of what they are talking about. You have to be ready to protect yourself. We have weather spotters out all around, and we know what’s coming. But we may not be able to protect all of you all of the time, so you need to be prepared to protect yourself.

Mills also shared a few fire safety tips to end his discussion.

Have a fire safety plan,” he said. “Make sure you have two ways out of your home. If you find that you can’t get out just stay where you are, pack stuff in around you, and wait. We will get you. That is our first priority – to make sure everyone is out of the structure. Then we fight the fire.”

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