​August 2, 2012

Identifying Shelter Areas, Practicing Plan Key to Safety

SPRINGFIELD – Schools across Illinois will soon welcome students back for the new schoolyear, and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is encouraging school personnelto include tornado safety in their preparations. IEMA today unveiled a new video presentationthat outlines steps for identifying shelter spaces within school buildings and other tips for severeweather emergency planning.

Release of the video, entitled Tornado Preparedness for Illinois Schools, marks the beginning ofSchool Preparedness Month in Illinois as part of IEMA’s 12-Month Preparedness Campaign.

“Tornadoes often strike with little warning, so every second is critical,” said IEMA DirectorJonathon Monken. “Every school needs to have a tornado plan and practice that plan so they canquickly move students to a shelter location if a tornado threatens. This new video will helpschool administrators develop or update their plans to ensure the safety of their students.”

Development of the video was the result of a public-private partnership between IEMA, theIllinois Terrorism Task Force, the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA), GallagherBassett Services, ASIS School Safety and Security Council, RETA Security, Inc. and SoundImpressions. All costs for the project were covered by the private sector partners.

Identifying shelter spaces for students, school personnel and visitors is a critical part of everyschool’s tornado plan. Shelters should be in a basement or an interior area on the lowest level ofthe building, in an area with a short roof span and no glass. School personnel should avoid areasthat have air conditioning units or other heavy equipment on the roof overhead or that are closeto other outdoor hazards, such as chimneys.

Hallways with glass doors at each end that open to the outdoors could become a wind tunnelduring a tornado and should be avoided as shelter space. Security camera footage from a Joplin,Missouri high school that was hit by an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011, is included in the schoolpreparedness video to illustrate the wind tunnel effect. Interior hallways at 90 degree angles tohallways with outdoor exits will reduce wind tunnel effects and make better shelter areas.

“The day after the deadly Plainfield, Illinois tornado in 1990, I saw firsthand the center-flowhallways jam-packed with desks, pieces of equipment, mud and other debris,” said Jim Bondi,IMSA chief of security. “Fortunately, no students were in the building at the time, but it couldhave been disastrous if they had sought shelter in those hallways. This changed my perspectiveon sheltering locations that I used after that at my school, and I’ve recommended that otherschool administrators also re-examine their shelter locations.”

The video also includes a pre-tornado season to-do list for schools, including establishingprotocols for delayed release times, assigning emergency responsibilities to staff members,training employees, staff and students and conducting a practice drill.

The video is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.