- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Although no designated public shelters currently are available in Salina when tornado sirens sound emergency officials say residents have many places to seek refuge and some changes are being considered.

Residents can shelter at fire stations, schools, churches, businesses and homes, said Saline County Emergency Management director Hannah Stambaugh, who added that emergency response officials are looking for ways to improve safety.

Storm shelters for all Salina public schools are included in a recently passed $110 million school bond issue, The Salina Journal reported (https://bit.ly/QZREbr ). The district’s new Salina West building has a basement designed to withstand winds up to 250 mph and it could be set up to be a shelter, said Ken Kennedy, assistant superintendent of the Salina School District.

“We have not determined a way to tie the (radio controlled) lock mechanism in with the city’s and county’s emergency notification system,” Kennedy said. “There has been no formal discussion as to whether there is interest in the city or county in doing that, but the ability to do so exists.”

A higher priority than public shelters is improvements to the county’s tornado sirens, Stambaugh said.

Salina has 18 sirens, and there are sirens in Brookville, New Cambria, Assaria and Smolan that are controlled by Emergency Management and the 911 system. But much of the system is outdated and “That becomes a challenge, too,” Stambaugh said.

“If you look at it dollar for dollar, a solid, stable, storm siren system is going to save more lives,” she said. “But how wonderful and beneficial public shelters could be.”

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Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, https://www.salina.com

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