MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
McConnell and the surrounding Wichita communities are no strangers to the destruction that tornados can bring.
On April 29, 2022, The National Weather Service’s Wichita Kansas Office reported that a tornado touched down in eastern Sedgwick County and moved northeast for 12.9 miles through Andover, Kansas, with estimated peak wind speeds of 155 mph.
Although the damage was extensive, only a handful of injuries were reported by The Andover Police Department. A few days after the storm, hundreds of Airmen from McConnell assisted the Andover community in their recovery efforts.
Coming up on the one-year anniversary of that tornado, many of the homes and buildings damaged from the storm have been rebuilt, but there is much work still to be done.
Although there is no specific tornado season, tornadoes can occur at any time and any place under favorable conditions. The highest number of tornadoes occur in May, followed by June, April and July, according to FEMA research.
"Tornadoes can strike quickly and with little warning," said Tech Sgt. Paul Duvall, 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron readiness and emergency management flight chief. “It’s important to be prepared for these kinds of natural disasters, especially here in Kansas.”
“One of the primary focuses in Emergency Management at McConnell is disaster readiness,” Duvall said. “Because personnel may be new to this region, so we have to ensure the base populace is educated on these local threats and hazards.”
The 22nd Air Refueling Wing Command Post pushes out all installation notifications over the Giant Voice system and to the base populace.
“Tornado watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service and Sedgwick County Emergency Management,” said Duvall. “Therefore, weather conditions will be set based upon information received from these organizations.”
“Disaster preparedness has a lot of key players and the office of Emergency Management assists multiple agencies with various preparedness actions,” said Duvall. “One of our most popular products that we develop is the Installation Emergency Management Plan (IEMP) 10-2. This plan outlines how the base prepares for, responds to, and recovers from all types of emergencies.”
The IEMP describes two conditions for possible tornado occurrences.
A “tornado watch” is a condition in which tornadoes are within 25 nautical miles or are expected within 6 hours. The order directs personnel to take precautions that will permit establishment of an appropriate state of readiness on short notice, and it does not require disruption of training.
A “tornado warning” takes effect when tornadoes are within 10 nautical miles or are expected within 1 hour. All outdoor activity will cease and all personnel will move indoors. An Installation alert will sound through the mass notification system every five minutes until the warning is canceled.
The 22 ARW Safety team recommends putting together a disaster supply kit and following specific procedures to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Maintaining an emergency supply kit, including nonperishable foods, bottled water, a radio and flashlight with extra batteries, can keep service members and their families safe for sustained adverse weather conditions. An emergency kit can also be useful in many more conditions besides tornado warnings.
However, it is the responsibility of every Airman to disseminate and promote preparedness information to the maximum extent possible.
Stay informed by learning what the different warnings mean and what the procedures are. Developing these disaster plans help prepare households to respond appropriately and keep you and loved ones safe.
For more information on tornado preparedness and other natural disasters, visit ready.gov or weather.gov.