By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman Public Schools’ recent Storm Ready certification with the National Weather Service may seem like a basic precautionary measure, but it’s not that simple.
The greater issue is the peace of mind for parents, students, teachers and administrators this level of preparedness should mean, especially in light of weather events earlier this year,
“I think the April 13 tornado made us look at procedures that worked and didn’t work, and re-working the plan we had in place instigated the certification process,” Assistant Superintendent Roger Brown said.
The Storm Ready plan improves aspects of the previous district plan which might have been too vague, said Stephanie Siewert of Weather Decision Technologies, who helped guide the district’s revisions.
“All around improvement put a lot more detail into the plan, now each administrator knows exactly what to do and what their responsibilities are, and there are contingency plans in case certain administrators aren’t present during a weather event,” Siewert said. “Roger and I began working on getting the certification shortly after the April 13 tornado, and it was a thorough process, it took about two months.”
“The process is a written application and centers on careful documentation of how an entity has planned to receive weather information, and disseminate warnings — the point is good preparation through communication and information,” Rick Smith of the National Weather Service said.
The district received official plaques and signs for its storm ready certification at the Nov. 19 school board meeting, but the process was actually completed in August and postponed because of a minor miscommunication, Siewert said.
Major benefits include improved methods of weather awareness, such as desktop versions of WDT’s top-tier tracking software, multiple means of receiving warnings through weather radios and smart-phone applications in the event of a power outage, and better methods of communication with school sites and bus drivers.
“One thing that’s a huge help is our direct line to the National Weather Service, I’ve already used this to track a storm during football season,” Brown said. “Lightning can be just as dangerous as a tornado, if not more so.”
Additionally, Brown said, the certified plan fleshes out both class time and after hours scenarios including sporting and performance events.
“Spring is a very busy time for the district. From the elementary to the high school level, there are a lot of school year-ending events, so it’s especially important to stay weather aware during that time,” Brown said.
For all the planning and certification process, the overall reward is a safer district in the next weather event.
“Hopefully, the certification gives parents and students more peace of mind, knowing the schools are prepared,” Smith said. “We want everyone to be ready, and those who have a plan in place fare much better when events happen.”
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