NORMAN — Norman Public Schools is clarifying new severe weather/tornado procedures with letters to parents and a website that details the district’s severe weather plan.
Following the May 20 tornado in Moore, city of Norman Emergency Management, NPS and from the National Weather Service (NWS) — as well as Weather Decision Technologies, engineers and architects — worked together in teams to review the districts’ and schools’ procedures and evaluate the safety of their shelter locations.
These surveys were recently completed, and the best possible shelter locations were identified at each school.
“Awareness is the chief strategy for being prepared during storm season,” said Roger Brown, assistant superintendent of administrative services. “Not only did we want to make sure we were sheltering students in the safest locations for refuge in severe weather, we wanted to clarify our procedures for parents. We understand that parents need to know what our specific actions are going to be so they as parents can make informed, confident decisions about their children.”
While NPS does not have a facility that has official FEMA certification, principals will now use the most appropriate and safest locations for sheltering, as identified by the teams. FEMA certification involves costlier requirements related to long-term sheltering needs more commonly associated with hurricanes.
Approximately one-third of NPS schools have locations within their building that have FEMA-like storm shelter areas but are equipped for short-term sheltering. Including storm shelters in new construction has been an NPS practice for several years.
NPS works closely with the NWS headquartered in Norman. Each Monday, Brown and other staff participate in a NWS conference call to review in detail the weather outlook for the week.
If the forecast calls for any severe weather, principals and other staff members are immediately notified, and NWS increases the frequency of its direct communication with Brown and NPS to daily, hourly, etc., depending on the immediacy and severity of a weather threat.