COVID-19 mobile testing tents have a vulnerability

March 24, 2020 - 7:36 am

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As more and more tents go up around the metro to house mobile COVID-19 testing operations, there’s another potential problem in the back of officials’ minds: severe weather that blows in with strong spring storms.

Andy Bailey, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill, told KMBZ that while severe storms are not the chief concern of emergency management and medical officials, contingency plans should be made before it’s too late. 

"Essentially, most tents are transparent when it comes to lightning, so anyone inside the tent is still at risk of being struck by lightning," Bailey explained. "And certainly, they'd have a much lower wind rating than a permanent structure."

In the event of a strong storm, there is another concern: some metro cities have community shelters, which could see more than 10 people gather. Bailey said that if that’s the only place to go if a tornado is tearing through town, you should follow community leaders’ guidance.

"Most communities don't have community storm shelters, it's just a few that I'm aware of."

Bailey told KMBZ the best course of action is for medical professionals to have a plan in place in the event of severe weather, so a mobile testing site can be evacuated if necessary.

He said he understands the utility of mobile tents as COVID-19 testing sites, and he’s not telling health officials they shouldn’t be deployed, but they should have a plan, so if a storm rolls in, they’re not taken by surprise.

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