Sunday, September 19, 2010

A TORNADO? Why worry, I don't live in Kansas?

Tornadoes don’t only happen out west or in Kansas. However unlikely for your area, they can occur almost anywhere. This is exactly why school’s need to take an ALL HAZARD approach to school preparedness.

Sept 16, 2010: An east coast storm that generates two tornadoes and a micro-burst wind storm struck in the New York City region and generated 125 mph winds in the surrounding areas on Thursday evening during rush hour. The storm traveled across the high population dense urban areas in Brooklyn and Queens toppling trees and power lines, crushing cars, peeled away roofs, and unfortunately killed a woman sitting in her car alongside her husband. One of the tornadoes hit the NYC area at 5:33 pm with winds up to 80 mph and the other tornado hit the NYC area at 5:42 pm with winds up to 100 mph traveling in a path of four miles through the city. It was the micro-burst (an intense gust of wind that pours down from a storm) that generated 125 mph winds that covered an area 8 miles long by 5 miles causing considerable storm damage and loss of power. Residents and commuters were stunned and many people came close to injury and death as it occurred during rush hours including parents picking children up from after-school activities. There were 60 reports of buildings with possible structural damage.

Points to Ponder:
  • A dangerous weather incident can occur at any time, in this real world weather emergency this storm could have affected your school's:
    • Faculty, staff, and student families returning home from school.
    • Teams and fans traveling to and from an away game school sporting event
    • A Thursday night school home sporting event you are hosting, band competition, or play.
    • Students being released from an after-school program for working parents or sports practice.
  • How does your school track and monitor weather? How does school leadership use this weather tracking method to develop decision points (postpone, cancel, or continue) scheduled school events that maybe effected by weather? How are weather announcements made for school events?
  • Following this storm, HOW do you check and WHO checks for structural damage in your school and school facilities?
  • Your school may be fine but an adjacent one may be damaged and may require the temporary or short term use of your facilities? Do you have a plan for this? Have you coordinated with adjacent school for this type of event?
  • If your school is damaged do you have a school continuity of operations plan (COOP)?
In March of 2010, there was a severe storm to the Northeast and our school in Connecticut was not damaged, save for an outside scoreboard. However, due to downed trees and associated power-lines throughout the city it created unsafe conditions for school children in their neighborhoods; we couldn’t open the school up for five school days.


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