Riley County prepares for severe weather emergencies through pandemic

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Riley County Emergency Management maintains operations in case of severe weather. (File photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is the crisis on everyone’s mind, as the spring and summer months roll in, so does the chance of a severe weather emergency.

“Have a plan, make a kit, and stay informed,” Laurie Harrison, emergency management coordinator, said. “Know where to go and what to do in case of severe weather.”

Riley County Emergency Management operations include degree management and carrying out essential services during crises. That won’t change, even though there’s a pandemic.

That being said, Harrison says things might look a little different this year.

“We have considered fewer staff in the emergency operations center,” Harrsion said. “We have deemed our storms potters essential, so they are not violating the Governor’s stay-at-home order when we need them to activate during severe weather.”

Nature is inherently unpredictable, she said.

“Responding to a disaster demands that we use the plans we have in place to help work through the situation at hand,” Harrison said. “We know we can’t stop a disaster, but we can minimize the effect of it to our citizens and community.”

Harrison said having an emergency kit is essential in preparing for weather-related emergencies. It should contain supplies your family would need to survive for 72-hours. The kit needs to be portable and should already be in your storm shelter, Harrison said.

The department is still taking steps to prepare for weather-related emergencies during the stay-at-home order.

“We continue to promote the use of the emergency notification system in Riley County,” Harrison said. “We also conduct testing of outdoor warning sirens and the emergency notification system.”

As is always the case in the spring and summer, flooding, damaging wind, hail and tornadoes are a possibility in Riley County.

“Stay informed, sign up for notifications,” she said. “You need to know what’s happening.”

If a weather emergency does present itself during the pandemic, Pat Collins, emergency management director, says citizens should seek shelter — it is more important than maintaining distance.

“Worry about the immediate threat,” Collins said.