Duck and cover

tporter@lsjournal.comMay 22, 2013 

  • More information 24 The number of people reportedly killed during a tornado May 20 in Moore, Okla.

As news continues to pour out of Moore, Okla. about the devastation caused by a tornado there, Lee’s Summit schools took the opportunity to drill home an important safety measure.

Severe weather procedures to take and protocols to follow were first and foremost on the minds of educators in Lee’s Summit after a preliminary reported EF-5 tornado May 20 in Moore killed 24 people and injured hundreds more.

At least two elementary schools in Moore were reportedly demolished by the tornado’s path.

“R-7 schools and facilities routinely practice tornado and other emergency drills, and all district buildings have tornado shelter areas designated,” said Janice Phelan, spokeswoman for the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. “Following the Joplin tornado in May 2011, all shelter areas were thoroughly evaluated to ensure that they are large enough to hold each school’s students and staff members.

“This review also focused on making sure that the shelters are the safest locations within the building. District staff and students will continue to take shelter anytime a tornado warning is activated for the Lee’s Summit area. In addition, all school shelters are compliant with Federal Emergency Management Agency recommendations released following the 2011 Joplin tornado.”

The tornado in Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, came almost two years to the day of the Joplin tornado, the deadliest tornado to hit the United States since 1950. That twister on May 22, 2011 killed 158 people and caused nearly $2.8 billion in damage.

Sarah Coats, a spokeswoman for Summit Christian Academy, said the school conducts monthly emergency drills and has a crisis response plan in place in the event of an emergency. Part of that plan includes a detailed tornado emergency plan that includes administrative mitigation, preparedness, response, staff response, and recovery, along with detailed checklists for the campus faculty and staff.

“Training and drilling are paramount to a successful emergency plan, and our goal is to ensure student safety,” Coats said.

Students, faculty and staff at SCA began the last day of school May 21 with a prayer for the children, families and schools affected by the tornado in Moore.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Coats said.

Following the May 20 tornado in Moore, Phelan said the R-7 district provided staff and the community with information about regular plans and procedures related to tornado preparation.

The information read: “District staff and students will continue to take shelter anytime a tornado warning is activated for the Lee’s Summit area. During a tornado warning, all R-7 schools and other facilities will be locked down. No students or staff members will be allowed to leave the shelter area until the warning has expired. District officials emphasized that school tornado shelters are among the safest locations for students. For this reason, parents will not be allowed to pick up their children from school while a warning is underway.

“When students and staff members take cover in shelter areas during tornado warnings, all parents will receive a phone call through the district’s automated calling system (known as SchoolMessenger). This call will notify parents that their children have been moved to the shelter. A second call will go to parents to notify them that the warning has expired and that students and school staff are returning to classrooms. The recorded phone calls will also inform parents that students will not be released from school during the warning. In addition, school staff members will not be answering the office telephones since they are all required to report to the shelter areas for their own safety.”

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