Whiteman AFB personnel prepare for severe weather season during COVID-19 pandemic

  • Published
  • By by Senior Airman Thomas Barley
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Severe weather season is here, which means it's time for Team Whiteman to create or reevaluate their plans in case of an emergency. This year in response to COVID-19, the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management Team and the Johnson County Missouri Operations Center is recommending residents, on and off base, take a few extra precautions.

According to Staff Sgt. Michael Furch, the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management plans and operations noncommissioned officer in charge, severe weather by definition can include a multitude of different meteorological phenomena. Here in Western Missouri, tornados and straight-line winds are most destructive.

“Everyone should have a plan they can refer to in case of a tornado,” said Furch. “If you live off base we recommend you take shelter in a basement, or if you don’t have a basement go to an interior room preferably with plumbing like a bathroom. If you live in a mobile home you are not safe and should evacuate to the nearest sturdy structure or public storm shelter to you.”

According to Whiteman AFB Housing office, all houses on base have tornado shelters built into them, and every workplace has a designated area to shelter in place. Those who are unsure of where to shelter are encouraged to contact their squadron emergency management representative, added Furch.

Along with knowing where to take shelter, Jeremy VanWey, the Warrensburg Fire Department fire prevention officer, recommends everyone should have a severe weather kit ready with essential items such as water, canned or dried food, battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid kit and prescription medications.

This year to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, emergency managers are recommending individuals and families add a few more items to their weather kits.

“We’re highly recommending everyone put a mask, a pair of gloves and hand sanitizer in their kit,” said VanWey. “Some of the shelters aren’t very big, so it may be difficult to keep that six foot distance if we have a large amount of people in them.”

There are several different ways to be notified of severe weather via smart phone apps, local news stations and the radio. The Air Force uses AtHoc, which is an emergency mass notification system, which allows senior leaders to inform base personnel of base closures, severe weather and any additional urgent information. The system notifies users via a phone call, text message or email.

Similar to AdHoc, Johnson County also has an emergency notification system you can sign up for called RAVE.

“Any time the county is put into a severe thunder storm or tornado warning you’ll receive a text or email,” said VanWey. “It will also push out additional information like road closures. Recently, we’ve been using RAVE to push out COVID-19 related information.”

To update your AtHoc information, users can right click on the white globe with purple ting icon in the system tray of their unclassified computer and select “Access Self-Service.”

To sign up for the RAVE system and for additional information about emergency management and how to prepare yourself during severe weather, go to http://www.jocoema.com/.