Residents of tornado alley always have to keep their head on a swivel monitoring the weather and severe storms. The three tornado shelters in the city aim to make that task a little easier by providing a location where anyone can take shelter at any time.
Sumner County Care Center, 1600 W. 8th, is one of those locations. Not to be confused with Sumner Regional Medical Center – which is home to the other public tornado shelter; or confused with the similarly named Sumner County Family Care Center doctor's office. SCCC is primarily a rest home with 36 residents. However, Tami Klinedinst, Executive Director of SCCC, wants it to be known as a safe haven from severe weather as well.
"I want the community to know that we are a resource for safety here," she said.
Joining Klinedinst in her campaign to raise severe storm shelter awareness is Brad Wicker, the maintenance officer of SCCC.
"Since that storm on Sunday, that woke a lot of people up," said Wicker, referring to the severe weather suffered in Kansas and Oklahoma.
The facility can house 44 residents, but Klinedinst and Wicker predict that SCCC can take in a much larger amount of people. "If push comes to shove, we can probably handle over 100 people," said Wicker.
The all-cement structure was built to withstand severe weather and more. The windowless hallways are solid, and could also be prepared quickly as a shelter area.
However, SCCC doesn't focus on just the short term emergency situation. They have the ability to house individuals for a longer period of time, if need be. A complete living facility, SCCC has a full kitchen, industrial-sized laundry units, and multiple restrooms. SCCC also has a diesel-run generator with a 500 gallon tank, equaling about three days of powering the facility at maximum capacity.
"As long as that generator's kicking in and we have the water, we're good to go," said Klinedinst. SCCC could also be used as a shelter against cold and winter weather, as well as tornadoes. As far as flooding, it would depend on where the flooding was at with the majority of the shelter being in the basement.
In addition, the facility has contracts with a water company and the National Guard to bring in gallons of potable water for victims to drink. "If we were to lose water supply in the city, we would still have water available here," said Wicker.
Although the fact that Sumner is a shelter is less known, Klinedinst and Wicker would like it to become common knowledge. Formerly known as Old Slate Creek, the facility is trying to create a new identity.
"Because of our name, Sumner County Care Center, people get that mixed up with Sumner Regional Medical Center," said Klinedinst. "They've got to recognize our name difference and know that there are two places in town in similar names."
Page 2 of 2 - Klinedinst also stressed that the shelter doesn't have specific operation hours.
"We're a 24/7 facility. It's not open during certain hours," she said. "If there's an emergency at 3 o'clock in the morning, there's always someone here."
Two other shelters are also available, located at Sumner Regional Medical Center and 1815 north A, Woodland Park. SRMC does allow pets, so keep that in mind when planning ahead. Tim Hay, Fire/EMS Chief, said that emergency planning is a two-way street. "It's up to emergency management, fire and law enforcement to keep reinforcing the message 365 days a year," he said. "However, it's also up to citizens staying up to date with the media and weather.
"Just keep an eye on the sky," he said.
Dalton Carver is a freelance writer for the Wellington Daily News. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.