« Continuity of Operations Planning, Hot Sites

Schools to build cellars as a continuity of operations plan

Schools are working toward creating a continuity of operations plan so teachers do not have to make last-minute decisions.
Schools are working toward creating a continuity of operations plan so teachers do not have to make last-minute decisions.

As extreme weather conditions continue to wreak havoc in communities throughout the United States, school districts are thinking of ways to keep children safe. Based on previous events, officials had to think on their feet to create last minute emergency decisions. For the 2013-2014 season, some states hope their staff members will be more prepared during these occasions.

After Moore, Oklahoma had an EF5 tornado sweep through this past May, killing 24 people, nine of them children, school boards and families want the local government to consider installing storm shelters, according to the Huffington Post. As of 2013, Oklahoma does not require these facilities or provides assistance to create them.

"If our children had storm shelters then they would be safe," Stacey McCabe, who lost her son in that tornado, explained to the source. "[A]nd we should be able to feel like when we send our kids to school that they are safe."

Making safety a priority

Cleveland, Tennessee had a similar mindset when it began building its new elementary school. Even though new construction won't be completed until 2015, it is catching the attention of establishments throughout the country. Each classroom will be equipped with a room that locks from the inside, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Architect Irene Nigaglio, who is working on the project, was surprised that the school committee decided to build these spaces early on, which will not cause additional costs to the community. Even though Nigaglio has designed schools in Tornado Alley, requests like these are "pretty rare."

Unlike past evacuations that helped move faculty members and students toward an established hot site, Cleveland's 140-square foot rooms will allow teachers to get students to a safe place much sooner.

"This is really a new approach," fellow architect Brian Templeton told the source. "It's usually a space where you can basically take the whole school population. This is more localized. The idea is that there would be less panic."

Similarly, over at the Montague Independent School in Texas, staffers will begin table top exercises this upcoming school year to help students identify where their storm cellars are, according to KCEN-TV, a local NBC affiliate. Each shelter is placed in various parts of the school, allowing a maximum capacity of 15 people.

School sectors that wish to create a plan for their community can reach out to business continuity consultants who specialize in these areas.