“To be safe, you have to be aware and you have to be prepared,” he said.
Preparation includes a plan and drills to prepare teachers and students to implement that plan. Smith worked with school leadership, suggesting ways for schools to get weather information. He said it’s important for people to pay attention to what Oklahoma weather is doing and plan accordingly.
While there are times a tornado comes out of nowhere — such as when the April 13, 2012, tornado hit Norman and did some damage to Norman High School — much of the time, forecasters know a storm with tornado potential is coming.
“My main focus is awareness and safety — that’s the key to safety in the schools,” Smith said. “A day like May 20 doesn’t happen by surprise. We were talking about it for five days in advance.”
Schools have gathered information and now the administration will create school plans and work with staff to prepare.
“What we’re trying to do is look at any information we can provide,” Smith said of himself and the team of emergency managers and other experts. “Spring is coming way too quickly and we need to be ready for it.”
Schools are still in the process of reviewing policy.
“We’ve had a lot of questions about districts planning to have tornado days and possibly canceling school,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s the school’s decision, obviously.”
But canceling school because of a possible tornado is not the same as canceling for snow.
“The kids from Norman that are home today for a snow day, their parents may still be at work and they can go out and play in the snow,” Smith said. “It was canceled because the roads were slick.”
Staying off slick roads keeps the kids safe. Tornadoes are a different matter. Unsupervised children who are not paying attention to the weather may not take appropriate safety precautions.