The Norman Transcript

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June 20, 2013

May tornadoes prompt heightened scrutiny of school shelters

(Continued)

NORMAN —

In the meantime, districts like NPS are continuing an ongoing process of collaboration, review and revision of storm protocol to ensure the safety of its students, faculty and staff in a weather event, earning the district National Weather Service StormReady certification in December.

“Not every school in the district has a FEMA-certified shelter, but even if we did have storm-ready rooms, insufficient procedure and communication would mean a lot of challenges and dangers,” Siano said.

The NPS district bases its protocol on facility-specific sheltering plans that are reviewed and revised annually, and which students practice multiple times a year. Issuing storm procedures is based on the district’s top-tier communication and weather awareness tools.

“Storm shelter plans are developed based on each individual building, with experts coming in from outside the district to evaluate the safest locations for students to shelter,” Siano said. “Lincoln, for example, has a basement, but it isn’t fortified and the building could collapse into it in the event of a tornado, so people in the school don’t shelter there.”

NPS Community Relations Director Shelly Hickman said part of the district’s weekly operations involve a teleconference between Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Roger Brown and the National Weather Service. In the event of severe weather, Brown has direct access to NWS personnel for up-to-the-minute information to aid with decision-making.

“Our proximity to the NWS really equates to us having direct access, and we very much value and are grateful for this partnership,” Hickman said.

Additionally, the district keeps parents informed of storm procedure implementation via the Infinite Campus emergency notification system, NPS website, mobile app and social media. For internal communications, the district implemented use of district-wide two-way radios to ensure contact isn’t lost due to cell, phone line or power failure.

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