SEVERE WEATHER SAFETY PLAN CHECKLIST
Use the following checklist for the evaluation or design
of a severe weather safety plan for your school. The plan should be designed so
that teachers and students anywhere on the school grounds can be quickly alerted
and follow a preset plan of action to maximize safety.
- Who is responsible for activating the plan? Is there a back-up
- What is/are the primary means of receiving severe weather information?
NOAA Weather Radio with an alert feature is recommended
- What method do you employ to alert teachers and students? Is
there a back-up that does not require electricity?
- Make provisions for the following problem areas:
Five main problems for schools in a tornado:
- Students that are in mobile classrooms away from the main building and
disconnected from an intercom system.
- Students that are in the cafeteria or gymnasium during the storm.
- Any students with disabilities who may be in a position to either not
hear the warning or be able to respond to it on their own accord. Assign a
teacher to each student who needs special attention to ensure that the
student arrives at a place of safety.
- Students who are outside, including after-school activities. Remember,
if you hear thunder, it is time to take action. Also, students who are
outside are at risk from the dangers of large hail and severe thunderstorm
Other thunderstorm hazards: Are you prepared?
- Forces caused by winds and the airflow around the building.
- Forces caused by other objects (debris) impacting school walls.
- Pressure differences caused by a tornado (secondary to first two).
- Gas leaks and electrical hazards after the storm. Have someone
knowledgeable in turning off gas and electricity at the school during
- "Wind Tunnel Effect" - When blown by tornado-strength winds,
debris (such as fragments of glass, wood, and metal) can cause serious
injury when accelerated by relatively narrow hallways in schools.
Safest places to be in a school: (assuming no underground shelter)
- Lightning may pose a threat well before strong winds/rain affect the
area. Athletic teams out on open fields need to be especially cautious.
- Large hail - the largest hail usually occurs near the most dangerous
area of the storm for the development of tornadoes. Large hail can break
- Heavy rains/flooding - Are there flood-prone area near the school?
- Damaging "straight-line" winds - A thunderstorm does not have
to produce a tornado to pose a threat to schools and students.
Some other aspects of designing a plan:
- Interior hallway on the lowest level.
- Away from windows.
- If possible get in a hallway that is at a right angle to the approaching
tornado's path (to avoid the wind tunnel effect).
- In a small room, such as a bathroom, surrounded by load-bearing walls.
- In a room without small objects that can serve as projectiles.
- Practice your plan. Have drills semi-annually (Fall and Spring).
- Include Severe Weather Safety Instruction as part of the drill period.
- Encourage teachers and administrators to develop a plan for their
families at home. The knowledge that their families know what to do at
home will enable them to focus their attention on the students. The
American Red Cross has brochures on developing a "Family Protection
- Educate school administrators about the structure of severe
thunderstorms and the basic sequence of events as a storm approaches.
Explain the concepts of rotating wall clouds and the preferred locations
for these features within the storm. (Attend the NWS SKYWARN severe
spotter training class - no fee). Emphasize the variability that may exist
with each storm and the need to understand basic storm structure to assist
in determining the degree of threat at a school.
- For optimum planning purposes, an engineer and a member of the local
school board should participate in the design of an emergency plan.
- Encourage administrators to contact the nearest National Weather Service
Office or Local Emergency Services Coordinator for assistance in answering
ANY questions that may arise in developing a plan.