How some small communities use old school tech to warn of tornadoes

Local

There’s an old saying. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“There are other ways to do it, but due to funding, this is where we are at,” says Travis Boat with the Pretty Prairie Volunteer Fire Department.

But how about an upgrade?

“We would always welcome an upgrade,” says Boats.

The department just doesn’t have the funds. Boat is one of several firefighters who are “the guy” when there is the threat of a tornado.

He explains, “We have a, quote on quote, button pusher.”

Trained spotters with the volunteer firefighter department essentially track the storms and where they will go.

Bigger cities, like Hutchinson, are streamlining tornado services. At the expense of $17,000 Hutch can now set off all the sirens with a cell phone. Smaller communities, like Pretty Prairie, rely on each other.

Boat doesn’t see any upgrades in the near future happening.

“We have done it for so many years, and it works. We just deal with it and get by,” he explains.

“I just hope he is around when it happens,” says resident Joel Virts.

Virts appreciates hard work. When he isn’t mowing yards, he is driving school busses.

“It is pretty much small town USA,” he says.

Though the tech isn’t new, he knows, being in a small town, he can count on his guys.

“If they see something on the ground they will call it in and the siren will go off,” says Virts. “You always say thank you.”

“You get out before it gets here,” says Boat.

Each county is in charge of how it oversees the sirens. In Sedgwick County, the Emergency Manager overlooks the sirens. In Reno County, each city manages their own.

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