Asst. Fire Marshal Debbie Sorrell, Columbia Fire Department – “We’re going to the lowest level and then we’re going to an interior room…You learn something, and you practice and it does well.”
NARRATOR – At Columbia’s Paxton Keeley Elementary School, Mrs. Aguilar’s fifth grade class is about to practice responding to a scenario that no teacher wants to encounter in real life.
Principal’s voice – “Students, please move to your severe weather locations.”
NARRATOR – The children know that the school’s safety plan calls for all students on the second floor to exit their classrooms…to stay together … to calmly walk down the stairs…
Sorrell – “These are life-saving skills that you’re learning today.”
NARRATOR – And in the case of this class…to file into the first floor media room…a room with no windows…and all walls are interior walls.
Sorrell – “Protect what you can’t do without, you can’t do without your head.”
Sorrell – “We don’t want to be anyplace that has exterior windows or exterior walls, large spans like a gymnasium would not necessarily be a good choice.”
Sorrell – “Is everybody doing okay?”
NARRATOR – Windows are avoided not just because of shattering glass but because 200 mile an hour winds can turn ordinary objects into missiles …these projectiles can also penetrate walls. The idea is to put as many walls as possible between the children and the tornado.
Sorrell – “Good job.”
NARRATOR – Auditoriums, gymnasiums and other areas with expansive roofs are avoided because they are more vulnerable and could collapse.
NARRATOR – The children remain on their hands and knees, covering their heads and necks until given the all clear.
NARRATOR – As an alternative…to using the first floor media room….after all other students had evacuated the second floor…Mrs. Aguilar’s students could have taken cover in the interior stairwell. Again, there are no windows and no exterior walls.
Sorrell – “And it’s super because, stairwell, it’s very secure.”
NARRATOR – The school had not sheltered in stairwells before, but re-evaluated its plan after the 2011 Joplin EF-5 tornado.
Sorrell – We’re a school of 700, so we were thinking do we have better locations? And so we’ve been looking at our interior stairwells as a location we can use instead of some rooms that had windows.”
NARRATOR – The training is designed to inform, and to reassure the children.
Fifth grade student – “I learned that you should always to a room in the center of the building and cover your head and neck.”
Fifth grade student – “If you don’t know this stuff then you could get hurt during a real tornado and that’s why it’s important to practice.”
NARRATOR – The children have learned an important lesson in being Storm Aware.