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Weathering the Unpredictable: A Dispensary Owner's Tornado Emergency Journey

Weathering the Unpredictable: A Dispensary Owner's Tornado Emergency Journey

By: Leonard Volner, President, NORTH | MoCannTrade Dispensary Committee Advisory Board Member 

The journey of a dispensary owner is paved with challenges and triumphs, moments of uncertainty and clarity, and above all, a deep-rooted commitment to the community we serve. At NORTH, our connection to cannabis is profoundly personal. Founded by Zach Mangelsdorf, Leonard Volner, and Neil Volner in 2019, our dispensary is a beacon of hope and healing in Jefferson County, Missouri. Our founders' experiences with cannabis, from Leonard and Neil's father being incarcerated for cannabis offenses to Zach using cannabis during cancer treatment, have shaped our mission and values.

As President of NORTH, I have had the privilege of leading our team with a vision of compassion, integrity, and resilience. Yet, there are moments that test our resolve in ways we could never anticipate—moments when forces beyond our control remind us of the fragility and unpredictability of life.

One such moment unfolded on a day that began like any other. The skies over Jefferson County were calm, betraying no hint of the tempest that was to come. As the afternoon waned, the tranquility was shattered by an urgent phone call. A Tornado Warning had been issued, and both of our NORTH dispensary locations—Pevely and Hillsboro—were in the direct paths of danger.

The news sent a chill down my spine. Our two locations, an 18-minute drive apart, were at risk of being hit by an EF1 and EF0 tornado, respectively. Time was of the essence, and every decision carried immense weight. As I reached out to our teams at both locations, I was struck by the gravity of the situation. Our staff, our customers, and our facilities were in harm's way, and our actions in the ensuing moments would determine the outcome.

With steadfast resolve, our team sprang into action. Our emergency response procedures, which had been carefully developed and rehearsed, served as our guiding light. Staff were quickly ushered to designated tornado shelter areas, and communication lines were established to ensure everyone's safety.  Fortunately, no customers were in the building at the time of impact.


As the tornadoes descended upon Pevely and Hillsboro, we braced for the unknown. The roar of the wind was deafening, and the fury of nature was on full display. In those harrowing moments, we were reminded of our vulnerability and our interconnectedness.

When the storm subsided, we emerged to assess the aftermath. Our Pevely facility had borne the brunt of the EF1 tornado, with downed trees, power outages, and damaged equipment. Our Hillsboro facility had also faced challenges, though it had been spared the worst.

 As we navigated the recovery process, I was struck by a profound sense of gratitude and humility. We had weathered the storm, and though the path ahead was uncertain, we were determined to emerge stronger and wiser.

In the wake of this experience, I would like to share actionable insights and key considerations for dispensary owners facing tornado threats, drawing from our own successes and challenges. My hope is that our journey will serve as a valuable resource for others in the industry:


  1. Review and Update Your Emergency Response Plan: At NORTH, our emergency response procedures were our guiding light. Our designated tornado shelter area—a windowless hallway in the center of our facility—provided safety for our staff. However, we realized the importance of regular tornado drills, as some staff members were initially unsure of the protocol. We now conduct semi-annual drills to reinforce the plan with the first drill scheduled prior to spring storm season.
  2. Invest in Early Warning Systems: We were alerted to the approaching tornado by an external source, but at the time, we did not have a weather radio at our facility. We have since invested in a weather radio to receive timely alerts and keep staff informed during storm seasons.
  3. Assess Your Insurance Coverage: The tornado threat prompted us to review our property insurance coverage. We questioned whether our coverage was sufficient to address the loss of both facilities in the same event. It's crucial to review insurance policies and ensure adequate coverage for natural disasters.
  4. Designate Emergency Contacts and Communication Protocols: Clear communication was essential during the crisis. We established communication lines with our teams at both locations. In hindsight, designating a single point of contact to guide employees would have minimized confusion. We now have a clear protocol in place. 
  5. Plan for Security and Power Outages: Our Pevely facility faced a 21-hour power outage, and some of our battery backup systems failed. We had to rotate watchmen for on-site security, and travel to the site was slowed by storm damage. We've since reviewed our backup power options and devised a strategy for emergency security.
  6. Reflect on Business Continuity: The tornadoes impacted our business operations, including temporary closures and supply chain disruptions. We've developed a business continuity plan to address such scenarios and maintain communication with our customers.  Make sure your leadership team is on site to respond to quirks as systems are brough back online.
  7. Foster a Culture of Preparedness: Our experience reinforced the importance of preparedness. We now empower our staff to take ownership of safety protocols and contribute to the ongoing refinement of our emergency response plan.

As we continue our journey at NORTH, we are guided by a sense of purpose and a commitment to excellence. To my fellow dispensary owners and operators in Missouri, I offer these words of encouragement: Let us stand together, prepared and resolute, as we navigate the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead. In the face of adversity, our collective strength and resilience will see us through.


By: Leonard Volner, President, NORTH | MoCannTrade Dispensary Committee Advisory Board Member 

About NORTH: At North, we operate with one goal in mind, to help patients and customers live their best lives through the relief that cannabis offers. Start your cannabis journey today.