Weather Ready Schools: Should School Hallways As Storm Shelters Be the Next Weather Safety Recommendation to be Retired?
The City of Moore, Oklahoma experienced an F5 tornado on May 3rd 1999 and an EF-5 tornado on May 20, 2013. In each of these events, two school buildings were destroyed. The 1999 event occurred after school hours with the majority of children and faculty already at home. The 2013 event occurred during school hours resulting in the death of 7 children at Plaza Towers Elementary and severe injuries to faculty at various schools as they attempted to protect students with their own bodies.
As more and more injuries and deaths occur when students and faculty are sheltering in their designated areas – hallways - school administrators and teachers are desperately searching for experts to review and offer better alternatives that will reduce the number of casualties. Public officials are being pressured to legislate that all schools have safe rooms. School districts are struggling to find funds for building safe rooms as their annual budgets for instruction continue to shrink.
By using actual school building layouts and analysis of post-tornadic damage, the authors will show that hallways may not be the best shelter location within school buildings. Construction practices and architectural designs meant to enhance the aesthetics may actually reduce the sheltering effectiveness of the buildings.