Bad Weather Warnings for Schools

By Valerie Ritterbusch, Brad Huffines, and Robert Goldhammer

Regardless of the size of the school -- 2,500 students and staff at a large high school or 100 at a rural elementary school -- it’s going to be a busy and stressful day for the administrative team if severe weather is forecast. Weather is an element of managing a school that is completely outside of your control except for having a solid preparedness plan in place.

While the frequency of severe weather, such as a tornado or a severe thunderstorm with damaging wind, is fortunately relatively low, if you find your school or facility in the crosshairs of one of these events, the impact can be significant. Tornadoes involving schools in recent years in widely separated locations across the U.S. have demonstrated that schools are not immune to disaster.

If your district has experienced severe weather that resulted in property damage only because the buildings were empty or received a glancing blow, the odds are that the next one may not have such a “lucky” outcome. A major factor is up to you as a school leader. Have you developed a severe weather plan for your district? Have your schools taught their students a safety plan they can enact at home?

As a school leader, it is your responsibility to identify the multiple hazards that might threaten your operations and the safety of your students, staff, and guests. Performing a risk assessment is important so you can focus resources on preparing for the one risk that is likely to be the biggest problem. No place in the U.S. is immune to the threat of severe weather.

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