The severe weather trend has schools buzzing about safety and what should and should not be done.
It’s something very familiar: the tornado drills. Students file into the hallway, take cover and wait for the all-clear. It is routine and simple, until it becomes a reality.
It was in early March that a funnel cloud was sighted late in the school day in Boone and Hamilton counties. It was the same day that devastating tornadoes raked across the southern part of the state. Henryville’s Junior Senior High School took a direct hit.
“An all call message went to every cell phone of every parent listed in our student data base and that happens in about two or three minutes,” said Zionsville Superintendent of Schools Scott Robison.
Students rushed to take shelter in the schools interior hallways.
“They were very ready as evidence by how they behaved and how it went, it went very well,” said Robison.
That was the case in the Zionsville schools. Students were in a place built to be safe.
“Those are masonry block walls, we have a concrete floor structure overhead, we see short spans, these are generally the most safe spaces in the building,” said Bill Payne, Executive Director of Fanning Howey Associates, Architecture & Engineering.
Architect Bill Payne knows these schools well and also knows that the design built to better withstand the force for Mother Nature.
“It looks like the school was designed to keep in mind tornado safety, the way their hallways are at a right angle to the main entry way limits significant wind tunneling or funneling through,” said Dave Tucek, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Service in Indianapolis. Dave also toured the building with Fox 59 to not only see the plan but also double check that the hallways were the safest place to hide.
The jumpstart to the spring season and early severe weather events has prompted a discussion not only with you at home but also with area administrators in our schools. It’s a discussion about school hallways and just how safe they are.
“Not an attractive area for bad weather so we’d have no students we wouldn’t want to see any occupants there,” said Payne.
Some spots are obvious of where not to hide. What you want to find are hallways with no direct access to outside.
“We have students who are situated away from those hallways where we have entrances at both ends,” said Dr. Robison.
The wind would actually have to take a 90 degree turn to get to students in a tornado emergency.
“The wind isn’t going to come in a take a dance,” said Robison, “and take a big turn to get to our students and we try to move our students away from that in how we seat them for any severe events.”
What’s important now is to re-evaluate those schools that do not have true interior hallways like what we saw in Zionsville. Hallways with exterior doors at the end need to be avoided.
“I don’t think you can put a premium on safety,” said Payne.
Schools may need to change their severe weather plan and not to mention, spend some money to ensure that the best materials are used and best hiding spots are utilized.
So yes, this brings up the topic of spending money. For some schools, it might be as simple as bringing in an engineer or architect to double check the layout of the school. But for others, it may require changes to the structure which will take tax payer dollars. Keep in mind, this would be money well spent to keep your children safe.