Local 2 Investigates: Are local schools ready if a tornado strikes?

Oklahoma school hit by tornado raises questions here at home

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter
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HOUSTON - In the wake of the Oklahoma tragedy, Local 2 Investigates team checked to make sure the major independent school districts in the viewing area have plans in place to deal with tornadoes.

Houston, Katy, Fort Bend, Aldine, and Cy-Fair Independent School Districts confirmed Tuesday that they had very similar "shelter-in-place" emergency preparedness plans if a tornado strikes.

"You can't just have a plan, you have to practice it," said Steve Stanford, with Katy ISD.

Each of the districts conducts, at minimum, twice a year drills to ensure teachers and students know where to go.

Standard operating procedures issued by the federal government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dictate that students remain inside a school in the event of a tornado.

The most common and suggested area is on the lowest level in an interior hallway.

It was not immediately clear why some students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma were escorted out of the school building before the tornado struck but the bulk of those students survived.

Students who hunkered down inside the collapsed school appeared to be more likely to be injured or killed.

Virtually no schools in the United States can withstand the 180 m.p.h. plus winds Monday's twister brought.

"Our buildings are built to be resistant to winds of 110 to 130 miles per hour and that's based on historical data we have of tornadoes in the Houston area," said Stanford.


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