There is no worse feeling, professionally or personally, than knowing that nothing you do while an incident is occurring can alter its outcome. In 2002 — as I felt the pressure on my ears, heard the roar of the tornado, then the shriek of tearing metal as the ventilators were ripped off the roof — that was what I was feeling. The terrified screams of the students and staff as I turned the corner to see water cascading into the hallway and the lights flickering are something I will never forget.
That moment inspired my passion for school safety. While there is nothing you can do during the storm to alter the outcome, there is a lot you can do prior to it that can prevent injuries and fatalities. Educators have a professional responsibility to do what they can to make sure they never face the nightmare of visiting a student in the hospital or going to a student’s funeral.
Tornadoes are among the most violent type of storms in the world, with winds in excess of 200 mph. They can wreak incredible havoc on schools and communities, and can change lives forever. The string of deadly tornadoes in the spring of 2011, followed by this year’s deadly season have had the positive side effect of generating renewed interest in tornado procedures for schools.