Deadly Oklahoma Twister Raises Questions About School Preparedness


As heartbroken people everywhere grieve the deaths of the young elementary school students killed in Monday's devastating twisters in Oklahoma, many parents are asking how safe their child's school is, and what can be done to protect our kids.

It's every parent's worst nightmare, and oftentimes these storms touch down with little notice -- making it all the more terrifying.

But Sunrise Middle School Principal Lance Fuller says tragedies like this one keep them on their toes and ready to face the unexpected.

"Severe weather is always on our mind here in Nebraska," he said, "and episodes like this that happened in Oklahoma give us a chance to reflect on our own procedures, look at our own buildings, make sure we have kids and staff in the safest areas."

Every school in the Kearney district has their own severe weather plan, developed by the principal, so they will be ready if disaster strikes.

"We have a district security safety committee that outlines protocol for the building principals when they design their own severe weather plan," Fuller said. "So what other principals do is the same as what I've done, which is go through the building, find the safest areas and use those as the shelter areas."

And by practicing the drills regularly, faculty and students know where to go when chaos ensues.

"We do the drill just like we would if there was severe weather," Fuller said. "We do that drill so that teachers know where their designated area is -- whether it's the classroom, whether it's in the cafeteria, whether it's in the media center. Whatever room they're in, they can look at the map and see where their designated area is."

In the event of severe weather, administrators at Sunrise Middle School make an announcement over the intercom, and teachers help get their students to their designated safe area.

"The rooms we look for are interior rooms without windows, rooms that have load–bearing walls -- so concrete walls, walls with columns that support the roof -- rooms that have beams that support the weight of the roof," Fuller said. "So the best areas are restrooms, small conference areas, rooms that are on the interior of the building."

Parents play a big role in keeping kids safe, too. If severe weather strikes, they can go to the school and wait it out inside with their children. But the safest thing for those students, Fuller says, is to stay inside the school.