The purpose of this guide is to provide assistance to school administrators and teachers in designing a severe weather emergency plan for their school. While not every possible situation is covered by the guide, it will provide enough information to serve as a strong starting point and a general outline of actions to take. The majority of material focuses on thunderstorms and the hazards they produce - lightning, hail, tornadoes, and flash floods. Thunderstorms can occur suddenly, with little or no warning. To insure safety, actions must occur quickly and be planned for in advance. This will become more apparent in Section 1: "Understanding the Danger: Why an Emergency Plan is Needed."
Once you comprehend the scope of the problem, you can begin to address how to reduce the potential hazards. Section 2 of the guide, "Designing Your Plan", details more specifically how to get weather information, how teachers and students can be alerted to the emergency, and what actions under what circumstances should be taken to reduce the danger. Safety is always the foremost concern. The ultimate goal is to "quickly inform teachers and students anywhere on the school grounds to the threat of severe weather and to move them as quickly as possible to a pre-designated shelters." This section also discusses school bus actions in severe weather.
For any plan to work efficiently, it must be practiced. It is recommended that schools conduct semi-annual drills and that severe weather safety instruction be part of this phase. It is important to understand why certain actions are being taken, to know the weather terms that are being used, and to know what visual clues can signal you to potential dangers ahead. Section 3 of the guide will provide some basic severe weather background on how thunderstorms evolve, what signals to watch, and how the National Weather Service (NWS) detects and tracks severe weather.
The appendices in this guide are loaded with reference materials to assist you in both designing your plan and gathering educational materials for severe weather instruction. There is a glossary of weather terms, an NWS products list, and safety tips for the various types of weather hazards (not just thunderstorms). There is a list of local NWS and state emergency management contacts if more assistance is needed.
Who will Design Your Guide?
Before you begin, it is recommended that one person be designated as the "Severe Weather Coordinator". Such a person may be a teacher or administrator with an interest in weather who is willing to attend local NWS spotter training programs (no fee). The coordinator would also be responsible for developing the plan and working with the local school board, administrators and teachers to implement the plan.