Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Article research shows schools not prepared to deal with tornados

I am working on an article about education safety and security for Security Products magazine that is due in another 48 hours.  As I have completed the research and putting the finishing touches on the first 400 words, for an 850 word article, I am saddened that America's school children are not very safe, especially those who reside in Tornado Alley.

As a youngster, I grew up in Decatur, Ill., a town that has seen its fair share of twisters.    While in the Air Force, I made it through a minor typhoon.   And of course, I have a wife who has lived most of her youth in Miami, a city that attracts it fair share of hurricanes.

Hurricanes are somewhat predictable, and they take before they strike a city.  Tornados can fall out of the sky at anytime without warning.   From talking to several experts at ASSA ABLOY, it's difficult for the typical school to react quickly to a twister.   In Kansas, the state statutes require that schools test their tornado response three times a year.  In most schools, that means going outside into a hallway and having each student putting their head between their knees. 

In Enterprise, Alabama, students went into the hallway where a Fujta Scale 4 tornado (a tornado with wind speed of between 207 to 260 miles per hour) killed 11 students.  The district thought that the hallway was safe but a wall caved in, killing them.  

The new FEMA 361 guidelines provide districts with the resources needed to build a safe school shelter, but then there's a funding issue.  In Wichita, funding for 60 schools is part of a major bond package that voters will approve today.  As FEMA has grants that pay for up to 75-percent of each shelter, schools still have to finance the remaining amount.

I believe that a school's ability to protect their students from a twister is about as good as their policy to deal with a crazed gunman.   Most educators can talk a good game, but when a crazed gunman or a twister hits, most don't have an effective way to deal with the issue.

It's only when people ask their school that effective chance can occur.   I hope that my completed article will arm people with the information needed to make schools safer.

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