Tornado Safety for Schools

There are special considerations related to severe weather safety and planning for educational facilities. Some important considerations for facility planning are provided below:
  • Each school should assess its facility overall and its designated severe weather refuge areas. Spaces below grade offer the best protection. If there are none, use interior rooms and hallways on the lowest floor and stay away from windows.
  • Bathrooms should not be ruled out when selecting refuge areas. Though concern has been expressed about cleanliness, they are often some of the better protected areas in the building.
  • Those responsible for activating the severe weather plan should monitor a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio or the local commercial media.
  • If the school's alert or public address system relies on electricity, have alternate options such as compressed air horns or megaphones for alerting in case of power failure.
  • Make special provisions for disabled students and those in portable classrooms.
  • Make sure someone knows how to turn-off electricity, gas or water in the event the school is damaged. Emergency shut-offs should be clearly marked.
  • Plans should list the line of succession for each authority or position responsible for carrying out critical segments of the plan. The primary person and 2 alternates is recommended, if possible.
  • Keep children at school beyond regular hours if threatening weather is expected. Hold bus departures if a warning is issued or appears imminent. Be sure to consider whether the bus will have enough time to complete its route and return before the severe weather arrives. Children and drivers are safer at school, than in a bus, car, or walking home.
  • Lunches or assemblies in long-span rooms should be delayed, if severe weather is anticipated. Gymnasiums, cafeterias and auditoriums are vulnerable to tornado-strength winds.
  • At the first sign of severe weather, students should be brought inside from their outside activities.
Contact Information
The St. Charles County Division of Emergency Management is available for additional assistance, including emergency planning, training, drills, facility assessment, and/or referrals. Please call our office at 314-949-3023.