FORT RILEY, KS – Weather in Kansas can be extreme and unpredictable, with each season bringing its own hazards and challenges. That’s why Fort Riley’s Emergency Management Office spearheads the Severe Spring Weather Awareness campaign every year in the April and May time frame, following the four main tenants of the Ready Army program: Be Informed, Make a Plan, Build a Kit, and Get Involved.“Using this framework, we hope to increase the overall preparedness and resiliency of our installation,” said Chris Hallenbeck, Emergency Management coordinator.The first in a series of five, this article will cover elements of the first Ready Army tenant, Be Informed, by detailing information on emergency notification systems and on one of the three main types of severe spring weather, tornadoes.Emergency NotificationsAll four Ready Army tenants need to be observed in order to be fully prepared for any severe weather emergency. Being informed about what the dangers are is the first step to protecting yourself and your loved ones.The Emergency Management office recommends having no fewer than three ways to receive weather warnings to stay up to date about severe spring weather. Fort Riley’s official emergency notification system, Alert!, delivers text, voice, desktop pop-up, and email notifications in cases of severe weather warnings and can count as one of those three ways for residents and employees.“Alert! is critical for our number one tenant: be informed,” said Hallenbeck. “That is one of our primary methods to notify the installation population of an emergency event.”Hallenbeck explained that the new system automatically enrolls any person with a DoD common access card then allows the user to add their family members under their profile using a network enabled computer. If someone is a non-CAC community member wishing to receive notifications, needs additional assistance, or is the spouse of a primary account holder who is deployed, they can call the Emergency Management Office to get enrolled.A second method to receive emergency notifications is through outdoor warning sirens or the “Giant Voice” tower system on post. Because residents and employees may not always be within earshot of these systems, a third method could be following Fort Riley social media pages, or signing up to receive notifications on a mobile device through the local weather service. The nearest National Weather Service Office is NWS Topeka and can be followed on Twitter at @NWSTopeka.Individuals can also listen to live updates by listening to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio and by tuning in to local TV and radio stations.TornadoesTornado season in Kansas is a prominent feature on the calendar, beginning in April and lasting as late as September. In 2019, there were 89 tornadoes recorded in the state, nearly double the total (45) from 2018. The record number of tornadoes recorded in one day was 13, which happened both on May 5 and May 28. May was an extremely active month overall, accounting for 56 of the 89 tornadoes reported. The record number of tornadoes occurring in one month in Kansas was 127, reported in May 2008.One violent tornado occurred in Kansas in 2019, reaching a magnitude of EF4. The tornado began in Douglas County before crossing into Leavenworth County and damage from the tornado was estimated at $26 million. Fortunately, these tornadoes did not result in any fatalities, although there were 16 recorded injuries.Hallenbeck said Fort Riley has been lucky to have stayed out of the path of most recent tornadoes.“The last couple years we have had some tornadoes, but fortunately they have touched down in the training areas,” said Hallenbeck. “They’ve been on the outskirts of the installation boundaries or crossed over the top of the range. Nothing in the housing or cantonment areas.”To be informed about tornadoes, one important distinction for people to understand is the difference between a watch and a warning.“A watch just means the conditions are right for that event,’ said Hallenbeck. “You should have a heightened sense of awareness and be paying attention, getting things together in case you had to take immediate action. The warning means it is happening. It’s either there or immediately close by.”During a watch, individuals should listen to weather updates on radio or TV and be prepared to act. Severe weather is close or already in the area. During a warning is the time to act. Individuals should go to shelter, ever if they can’t see any immediate danger.Ideally, people should seek shelter inside. Remembering the acronym DUCK - Down to the lowest interior level, Under something sturdy, Cover your head and Keep in the shelter until the storm has passed - can help people take appropriate action for sheltering indoors.If people are outside, they should seek to find shelter immediately. Those in vehicles should not attempt to drive through the tornado. The National Weather Service recommends either exiting the vehicle to find shelter or lying flat in a ditch or depression, or buckling your seat belt and getting below window level of your vehicle.When it comes to severe spring weather, being informed can mean the difference between life and death for you or your loved ones. Ensure your family is informed on potential dangers by visiting https://home.army.mil/riley/index.php/about/dir-staff/DPTMS/ready-army for more information and by following the four Ready Army tenants for preparedness.Next week’s article, Be informed, part 2, will cover two more types of severe spring weather, severe thunderstorms and flash floods.