Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Recently I presented a School Security Seminar in Kansas, near the border of Missouri. In attendance was a safety coordinator from the Joplin Schools - Jim Hounschell. As a reminder, Joplin, MO was devasted by a tornado this year on Sunday, 05/22.
When asked to relate an important "lesson learned," this was Jim's response.
"We, for literally decades, have pulled students out of classrooms and placed them in the hallways during severe weather warnings or drills. We lined students up against the hallway walls and put them in the kneel and duck position. May 22nd changed all that. With video cameras in Joplin High School and East Middle School, we were able to go back and see what would have happened in those designated shelter areas had students been there. Large debris from street signs to car bumpers were effortlessly tossed down the halls. In some areas, classroom walls fell into the hallway. Each hallway became a wind tunnel. It was obvious to us that many lives would have been lost in our schools had the storm come through during school hours. With that knowledge, we no longer use hallways - period. FEMA has placed shelters at schools that were damaged in the tornado, but we still have many other schools that do not have FEMA shelters. In those buildings, we have cleaned out the old, musty basements that were being used for storage so that we can put as many kids in them as possible. In schools that need more room, or do not have basements, we are using "interior rooms" - rooms that do not have any walls that are exterior walls. As a last resort, we will use rooms that may have an exterior wall, but no windows or exterior doors. In looking at the damaged schools, these areas fared much better than the hallways."
Now is the time to use this vital "lesson learned" to make necessary adjustments to your shelter-in-place procedures.
Please post your thoughts and comments.

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