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KTXS investigates how Abilene ISD elementary schools prepare for tornadoes

By Kristen Pope, Reporter, kpope@ktxs.com
Published On: May 21 2013 08:34:46 PM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2013 03:19:08 PM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Monday’s Moore, Okla., tornado destroyed two elementary schools – Plaza Towers and Briarwood – and brought into question how prepared Abilene ISD schools is for tornadoes.

Johnston Elementary School holds tornado drills four to five times a year. Federal law only requires schools to run drills twice a year.

Roger Thomas, principal of Johnston Elementary School, said he wants his students to be well-prepared and comfortable with the process of how to take cover during a disaster.

"We start at the end of January or early February primarily because in West Texas you never know when a tornado may strike," Thomas said. "We want it to be a part of their habits when something has to happen they know exactly what to do and they can operate under intense situations.”

When students are notified there's a tornado warning, they're first instructed to move away from the windows and move to an interior hallway if possible, duck and cover their head with a book.

"In those situations you don't have a lot of time to notify parents in advance," Thomas said. "They're listening and we don't really encourage parents to try to get their kids in those situations."

One of the safest places to be during a tornado is in a school. Thomas said parents should wait to pick up their kid until the storm passes.

KTXS Chief Meteorologist Mark Rowlett said, "The worst thing you can have happen is to be out in the open when a tornado hits."

The goal during a storm is to always be protected from falling debris. The last time Johnston Elementary had to put the tornado drill into practice was about January, when a funnel cloud was spotted southwest of Abilene.

Abilene ISD uses an emergency callout system to notify parents and nearest of kin when there is a tornado warning. The system is in conjunction with the Abilene Police Department. With this system AISD officials are able to send a recorded message to all primary numbers they have on file. Once things are back to normal, all clear messages are then sent out.