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Emergency Management encourages severe weather preparedness

Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 9:24am

As severe weather season ramps up, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about how to react to severe weather. While we understand the importance of social distancing, the National Weather Service and Emergency Management agree that during a Tornado Warning, the first priority should be protection from a potential tornado even if this means temporarily breaking social distancing.

We understand that many of our community members utilized public buildings during severe weather, most of which are closed or not open to the public due to COVID-19. Specifically, with the current health precautions in place, LMH Health is not available for sheltering.

The following buildings in Lawrence will be open, only during the specified times, when a Tornado Warning is issued:

  • Sports Pavilion Lawrence, 100 Rock Chalk Lane: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday
  • Community Building, 115 W. Eleventh St.: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday
  • Douglas County Fairgrounds Building 21, 2120 Harper St.: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday

If in the past you have taken shelter during severe weather in a location not listed above, call ahead before a severe weather event to determine if it is still open and the hours of operation. Do not assume that location will be open because many are closed or are not allowing entry. This could be very dangerous. If you need shelter outside of the times listed above, contact a location that is open 24 hours.

If you take shelter in a public location, please take these precautions:

  • Wear a mask (cloth masks are OK)
  • Practice social-distancing techniques (staying 6 feet away from others) as much as the situation allows
  • Bring your own hand sanitizer
  • Do not bring pets
  • As soon as possible upon returning home from the shelter, wash your clothes and shoes to limit potential sources of COVID-19

Special sheltering considerations

Identify your best shelter: an interior room with no windows on the lowest level of a building.

If under quarantine (exposed but not showing symptoms): Go to your designated shelter. Follow social-distancing practices as much as possible and wear a mask.

If self-isolating with family (symptomatic): It is recommended to have a separate location for the isolated person to take shelter. This space should be cleaned after use. If no such space is available, follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask.

While in a shelter, all individuals are encouraged to:

  • Wear a mask
  • Use social-distancing techniques (staying 6 feet from others) as the situation allows
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Clean the space after use

Preparedness actions everyone can take

  • Be alert to the forecast for severe weather
  • Pay attention to changing weather conditions
  • Develop an emergency plan which includes: how to get alerts (identify more than one) and where to take shelter (lowest level of a building, in an interior room with no windows).
  • In developing plans for shelter, connect and communicate with neighbors via phone, texting or apps, including using Nextdoor for information from your neighborhood, City of Lawrence or Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.
  • Build a preparedness kit with basic items to keep in your shelter or to take if you leave

We are all in this together and have a responsibility to each other as we navigate the COVID-19 challenge. Thank you for including these COVID-19 safety measures into your preparation for severe weather season.


Media Contact

Jillian Rodrigue, Deputy Director