"It is always essential to stay vigilant for the risks of severe weather," said Col. Mark Ely, Vice Wing Commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. "This helps eliminate confusion so we can better take care of, and protect, our Airmen, our families and our aircraft and assets."
Weather Operations, Command Post, Security Forces and others all play a role in alerting Airmen, personnel and families on base if there is a tornado warning.
"Cooperation between the different units on Whiteman AFB is imperative to saving lives," said Tech. Sgt. Ted Collins, who oversees Airfield Weather Operations at Whiteman AFB, which is where the base’s response efforts start.
"Our role in Whiteman's tornado warning response really begins days in advance of a tornado warning being issued," Collins said. "We’re analyzing significant weather conditions as far out as seven days to determine if Whiteman would be impacted."
A tornado watch means a tornado is possible, while a tornado warning means a tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted. This distinction determines how units will proceed.
"If we think the atmospheric conditions are right for a tornado to impact Whiteman, we will issue the tornado watch and notify numerous base agencies of the threat," Collins said. "Once a tornado is spotted, we will issue the tornado warning and notify certain base agencies so they can enact their tornado emergency checklist actions. We also alert the Knob Noster Emergency Management Dispatch Office."
Following a tornado warning notification from Weather Operations, the Command Post and Security Forces units take action. Command Post activates the sirens on base, releases a message on the Giant Voice loudspeaker system and emails base commanders, while Security Forces travels through the base to notify people the warning has been issued.
"Whiteman personnel should know that the base weather personnel are well trained to analyze the atmosphere for severe weather, to interrogate storm cells, and to actively communicate all severe weather threats to wing leadership and the base populace," Collins said.
Ely added, "If severe weather is headed for Whiteman, many units are working together to make sure you know."