Part 4 of our series for upcoming National Preparedness Month is a Tornado Safety Drill video produced by the State of Missouri demonstrating the planning and exercising that goes into protecting students in the event of a tornado or severe thunderstorm.
Conducted at Columbia’s Paxton Keeley Elementary School with the help of the Assistant Fire Marshal, fifth grade students practiced responding to a tornado scenario to ensure they would know what to do during an actual event. As one student put it, “If you don’t know this stuff then you could get hurt during a real tornado and that’s why it’s important to practice.”
5 key lessons learned from Paxton Keeley’s tornado safety drill are:
1) Students should stay together and walk calmly.
2) Seek shelter in an interior room with no windows that’s located on the lowest level of the building. Put as many walls as possible between the children and the tornado.
3) Windows are to be avoided not only because of shattering glass, but 200mph winds can turn ordinary objects into projectiles that can also penetrate walls.
4) Avoid gymnasiums, auditoriums and other areas with expansive roofs, as they are more vulnerable and could collapse.
5) The students should drop to their hands and knees, cover their head and neck, and then remain in that position until given the all clear.
Administrators at Paxton Keeley also did something very important prior to this drill. They had never used interior stairwells before; however, after the Joplin EF-5 in 2011 they re-evaluated their plans to include utilizing other secure locations. In their case they have an interior stairwell that’s also a fire stairwell, so it’s extremely secure and the children have a very good place to seek shelter in the event of a tornado.
Paxton Keeley is to be commended for not only ensuring their students know what to do in the event of a tornado, but for having the wisdom to re-evaluate existing school safety procedures to find ways in which they could be improved upon. Then practice, practice, practice.