Weather-Ready School Safety: Modernizing Tornado Safety Procedures in Schools with Planning, Preparation, and Practice

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Monday, 5 January 2015: 4:45 PM
221A-C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Kristin Scotten, NOAA/NWS, Amarillo, TX; and A. Margrave and T. T. Lindley

On any given weekday during the academic year, roughly 20-25% of the United States population is in a public school. Since 1950, school fatalities and injuries due to tornadoes have been extremely rare. After the tragic 20 May 2013 tornado claimed the lives of seven elementary school children in Moore, Oklahoma, local school districts across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles began to prioritize planning, preparation, and practice of local tornado safety policies. Within the last year, numerous requests for guidance and support from several school districts were received through the NOAA/National Weather Service Office in Amarillo, Texas and the Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management.

With the combined effort of these two agencies, entire school districts including dozens of schools have been surveyed for best available shelter locations; have had tornado safety plans reviewed; and have been evaluated for time, space, traffic flow, and coordination during tornado drills. Best practices and success stories within local school jurisdictions will be highlighted in this study. The potential societal impacts within the school and surrounding community will be addressed as well as how local NOAA/National Weather Service Offices and other emergency management agencies can assist local school districts in making correct “Weather-Ready” choices to keep children safe during tornado disasters.