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IEMA, NWS develop severe weather sheltering guidance to address COVID-19 concerns

information provided by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (March 30, 2020) – During spring months, the risk of severe thunderstorms typically increases across the state of Illinois, including the risk for tornadoes. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recommended social distancing parameters, people who rely on public sheltering from tornadoes could be faced with the difficult choice of sheltering from the tornado in a community shelter or refraining from going to the shelter in order to limit potential exposure to COVID-19.

At this time, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service are recommending that the first priority should be protection from a potential tornado. However, the decision to open a community shelter will ultimately be at the discretion of local officials. Before making the decision to go to a community shelter, people should first check with local officials to ensure they will be open. This should be done ahead of any thunderstorm, well before any warnings are issued. For people who rely on community shelters, now is a good time to explore other options for keeping safe from a tornado while also limiting potential exposure to COVID-19.

The National Weather Service and state and local emergency management officials strongly encourage people to have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) All Hazards Weather Radio with battery backup. These radios can be programmed to receive alerts for specified counties and all types of hazards, including natural (earthquakes), environmental (chemical spills), and public safety hazards (AMBER alerts). When an alert is issued for the programmed area, the device will sound a warning alarm tone followed by the essential information.

In addition to NOAA weather radios, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) can provide life-saving information about impending storms and emergencies. These alerts can be sent to a mobile device without the need to download an app or subscribe to a service. Not only are these critical tools to surviving overnight storms, but they can be extremely beneficial for those who travel.

More information regarding tornado and severe storm safety, as well as Illinois COVID-19 updates, is available at

Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.