Whether it’s a safe room in your community or a spot in your own home, the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management recommends making plans now.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Just as THV11’s weather team is monitoring the upcoming storms, city and school officials are doing the same.
But will safe rooms and severe weather protocols look different with COVID-19?
The 911 director for the City of Jonesboro, Jeff Presley, remembers it like it was yesterday. It was March 28, 2020.
“We were working in the yard, doing things around the house,” he said.
That’s when an EF-3 tornado tore through the city Presley had called home for years.
“It being a Saturday last year at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, it could’ve been a lot worse,” he said.
The property damage was extensive, but Presley said, they are thankful no lives were lost.
But with weeks away from the one-year anniversary, many in the community have their guards up for what Wednesday’s weather could bring.
“It’s still fresh in the minds of everyone in this area. We’re driving past it every day, we’re looking at new buildings built to replace the ones that was taken away,” he said.
Similar to Jonesboro, the city of Lonoke isn’t a stranger to severe spring weather, according to the Superintendent of Lonoke Public School District John Tackett.
“In fact, that’s why we got some help from FEMA several years ago to build safe rooms here,” he said.
Like many school officials, Tackett was watching the radar closely on Tuesday.
“We’ll meet with our principals this afternoon to find out what they’ve heard to kind of let them know what we’re looking at,” he said.
There are three safe rooms on Lonoke’s campus that can hold over 2,000 people combined.
Tackett said the pandemic won’t stop them from opening those doors, mask and social distancing will remain a priority.
“The community knows that they have access after school and during the weekend; however, we have had community members come to the safe rooms during the school day and of course, we let them in,” he said.
Whether it’s a safe room in your community or a spot in your own home, Arkansas Division of Emergency Management Spokesperson Kathy Smith recommends making plans now and having preparedness kits ready to go.
“It’s a good idea when you’re doing that to prepare for approximately 72 hours,” she said.
The agency has its eye on the weather, according to Smith, and is making arrangements to be able to activate their emergency operations, if needed.
“We really do encourage that preparedness side of it because, as you know in Arkansas, it’s that time of year,” she said.
If you want to know the safe room locations within your community, Smith said they recommend contacting your local officials or local emergency manager.
Things to remember if you are packing up a preparedness kit, make sure you have batteries, non-perishable food, chargers, and bottled water.