Weather Ready Schools: Should School Hallways As Storm Shelters Be the Next Weather Safety Recommendation to be Retired?

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Monday, 3 February 2014: 1:30 PM
Room C109 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Andrea Dawn Melvin, Oklahoma Climatological Survey/University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and K. A. Kloesel, M. K. Corbett, J. E. Hocker, D. E. Mattox, S. L. Stalker, G. Kitch, and R. Smith

Handout (29.9 MB)

Historically, hallways have been the recommended location for sheltering during tornado threats. Hallways provide the narrowest ceiling footprint and are located in the interior of school buildings. These two factors were believed to offer the best protection against flying debris and reduce the chance of losing the roof. Meteorologists still deal with the public who believe they should open their windows to keep their house from exploding when a tornado hits. School hallways as shelters may be the next weather safety recommendation that meteorologists need to retire (debunk).

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.