“There is nothing supporting the space within that 40 feet,” he said. “Wind can uplift and drop the roof down, which is sort of what happened at Plaza Towers.”
The evaluations recommend a “Best Available Refuge” at each school. Armbruster said these recommendations do not state that these “Best Available Refuges” will withstand an EF-5 tornado, but that it is the best location for safety within a school building.
“It’s sort of like when you listen to the weather guy, and they tell you to go to the interior room of your house,” Armbruster said. “We were looking for places like that, but we had to consider if these interior rooms have glass, if there was a 40-foot span, the number of kids needing refuge and more.”
Other areas that should be avoided during a storm include gyms and cafeterias, as well as corridors that end in large, glass entries, which could create a tunnel effect that rushes wind, glass and debris through the corridor.
“You want as much room between you and the outside walls as possible,” Armbruster said.
The biggest adjustment Armbruster and his team recommended is that Alcott Middle School, which is partially underground, should move students from the first floor underneath a band room to a room next door, which Armbruster said was an easy change.
The tornado assessments found both high schools have a lot of interior rooms without glass, due to the additions that have been made to both schools over the years, Armbruster said.
“Every school had small tweaks, but we didn’t find any major issues,” he said.
Moreover, Armbruster said that the 2009 bond issue, which enclosed classrooms at Irving and Whittier middle schools, created interior rooms and made them much safer.
“Every principal was helpful and ready to make adjustments. There were no egos. They had the kids’ safety in mind,” Armbruster said.