September is National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month
Posted on 09/01/2022

This summer, a tornadic storm reminded Lenexans of the importance of being prepared for an emergency.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on June 8, a tornado touched down just west of I-435 and traveled roughly along 95th Street through Lenexa.

It developed quickly. By the time the National Weather Service detected rotation and issued a tornado warning, the tornado had passed into eastern Johnson County.

Fortunately, there were no injuries reported. But the EF-1 tornado did cause major damage to some homes and trees — particularly between Lackman and Quivira Roads.

This nighttime storm also left many wondering how they could be better prepared for a similar emergency.

“The number one tool for being prepared is not being complacent,” says Lenexa’s Battalion Chief for Emergency Management, Randy Pommenville.

National Preparedness Month — observed each September — is an excellent time to think about how you can take an active role in protecting yourself during different kinds of emergencies.

Here are some simple ways you can have peace of mind before a weather emergency, whether it’s a tornado, strong winds or a winter storm.

Have multiple ways to get emergency alerts...

Tornado sirenGood ways to receive information on severe weather include:

  • NOAA Weather Radios are available at many big-box stores and online retailers.
  • NotifyJoCo. This free mass notification system allows you to receive emergency messages from Johnson County, local cities and some public utilities. You can choose which alerts you want to receive and how you’d like to receive them – including phone, email or text. Register at
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts. These emergency messages are sent to your cell phone by government agencies like NWS and FEMA. They look like a text message and are issued for warnings for tornadoes, destructive severe thunderstorms, flash floods and other serious weather threats.
  • Weather apps
  • Local TV and radio stations may offer both emergency broadcast alerts and live coverage of weather events.
  • Tornado sirens are intended to alert people who are outdoors. Johnson County has the primary responsibility of activating these sirens, which only sound during tests and warnings.

...And make sure your alert systems are working correctly.

  • Cell phone in handDouble check that your weather radio is turned on and placed in a location where it gets good reception.
  • Go to and make sure you’re signed up for Weather Alerts, not just City of Lenexa Alerts.
  • Check your phone’s notification settings to confirm that your Government Alerts are turned on. These include Wireless Emergency Alerts.
  • Turn off your phone’s Do Not Disturb setting when severe weather is possible, or set it to allow notifications from weather apps.

Take any weather warning seriously

Tornado and lightningThis is especially important at night, when you – and trained weather spotters – can’t see approaching weather dangers. During a tornado warning, always take shelter immediately.

While a tornado warning wasn’t issued for Johnson County until the storm passed Lenexa, the city was under a severe thunderstorm warning. These aren’t issued for most thunderstorms – only when spotters or radar have identified a storm producing large hail or damaging winds. Severe thunderstorms can be just as dangerous as a tornado and rapidly change.

During a severe thunderstorm warning, you need to be vigilant and follow the advice issued in the warning, which can change depending on the nature of the storm.

Likewise, keep an eye out for winter storm and blizzard warnings this winter — they’re often issued hours before the storm arrives, giving you more time to be prepared.

Think about where to shelter ahead of time

Tornado shelter signThe best places to go in a tornado are a designated storm shelter/safe room or basement. If you’re sheltering in your basement, stay against a western or southwestern wall. Since tornadoes and damaging winds commonly approach from this direction, it’s more likely debris and structural damage will fly or land past you.

If you live in an apartment complex, know where your storm shelter is located. If severe weather is approaching, go to the shelter before the storm arrives.

If you don’t have time or it isn’t safe to get to the shelter, there are still good options for sheltering in place. Pommenville’s advice: The smaller the box, the better. Small closets and bathrooms in the interior of the building are top locations to consider. Having walls close to you prevents other pieces of the structure, like other walls or a roof, from falling on you by supporting their weight.

Know when severe weather could be coming

Severe weather outlook mapThe National Weather Service issues severe weather outlooks that assess how high the current risk level is (pictured at right). While the risk of tornadoes was low the night of June 8, the NWS still reported severe weather was a possibility. Follow NWSKansasCity on Facebook and Twitter for timely, informative weather updates and outlooks.

Do a quick weather check before you go to bed – this can be as simple as checking a weather app, scanning the NWS’s website or social media, or turning on the evening news’s weather forecast.

Take a few easy steps to prevent injury before a storm

Red sneakersAgain, this is especially important when nighttime storms are possible. Have a pair of shoes and a flashlight with you, and an emergency kit in your shelter location.

It’s also smart to find something to cover yourself with to protect you from debris. Mattresses placed over a bathtub are a good form of protection. Bike helmets are also a great way to protect your head from flying debris.

Find helpful tips at


Published September 1, 2022