Kids Practice Staying Safe in Severe Weather

Posted at 1:37 PM, May 21, 2013

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.–Following Monday’s deadly tornado in Oklahoma is not typically the time school administrators want to test young students on tornado safety. But, it serves as an important reminder.

Tuesday, administrators with Grand Rapids Public Schools took FOX 17 into Mulick Park Elementary Schools, for a rare look at what they do to keep kids safe during severe weather. School staff say they don’t want to over drill kids and make them desensitized, but they also don’t want to scare them.

“The thing to really do right now is inform the staff and remind parents what needs to occur,” said Larry Johnson, Executive Director of Public Safety & School Security.

“We’ll shelter kids into bathrooms, any storage areas we can quickly get them into. Just a variety of locations..”

Johnson said the school does have a basement, but staff doesn’t use it as a shelter because there are too mechanical rooms kids would have to go through. However, if it was imperative, staff would consider using it.

But during the weather Michigan typically sees, Johnson said the hallways, built with cinder blocks, are adequate.

Within two to three minutes, kids are in place. They’re told to keep their heads covered, either tucked under their arms, or with books.

Administrators point out, Mulick Park Elementary does have some challenges: two portable classrooms outside.

“That adds an additional value of ensuring the PA call is being held and heard in the portables and ensure the kids in the portables are getting inside the main building,” said Johnson. “We don’t want them in the portable during severe weather.”

Teachers not designated to monitor weather, are constantly keeping kids calm. Even prepared to act as a shield for their students, like some of them in Oklahoma.

“If I was thinking on my toes, I probably would have reacted the same way and I think a lot of the teachers  in the building would have as well,” said teacher, Melissa Bixbe.

This drill is one of two severe weather drills, two lock-down drills and six fire drills students go through each school year.