OK Parents, Metro District Canceling School During Tornado Threats

Thursday, May 15th 2014, 10:59 pm

By: News 9

Season Reed doesn't think twice about taking care of her family. But when we forecast tornadoes, she gets a little apprehensive.

"When I hear about them, I just completely freak out," Season said.

The thought of the sirens going off scares 3-year-old Keegan and 8-year-old Addison too.

"They hate it," Season said. "They absolutely hate it."

The first sight of an ominous cloud and Season makes sure her kids are with her, even on days when Addison's Mustang school is open.

"If there's an imminent threat, I'm not sending her," Season said. "She's not going. Point blank."

Hundreds of students in Mid-Del schools have a safe place to go if they're at school and the sirens sound. Three brand new classrooms at Del City Elementary double as FEMA designed storm shelters. Mid-Del Director of Maintenance and Construction Mike Bryan took News 9 on a tour.

"We've got a slab and it's tied structurally with steel to each of the walls and the walls are attached to the ceiling," Mike Bryan said.

And they're stocked with everything you need in an emergency. Mid-Del is taking safety a step further, making an aggressive decision this year when the tornado threat is high.

Mid-Del Superintendent Dr. Pam Deering said, "If we hear the predictions that it's really going to be that bad we wanted to add the element we'll just cancel school as we would any severe weather day."

News 9 Chief Meteorologist David Payne thinks it's a great idea.

"The bottom line is as long as we have a plan, whether it's canceling school the day of possibly severe weather or just having that plan in place at that school if severe weather does come towards the school," Payne said.

Deering says canceling school on heightened severe weather days is the most logical option.

"If it was as severe and such a tragedy as it was in Moore, at least our children would be at home," said Deering.

Season and her family find that comfort sheltering at home.

"I would just feel safer if we're all together," Season said.

District Tornado Shelter Plans:

Oklahoma City:

"The Oklahoma City Public School District has comprehensive safety procedures in place that will be used during the event of severe weather. In addition to the procedures, the District is taking vital steps to safeguard our students and staff during a weather emergency and has identified the safe area of refuge in every building. The District will continue to work with emergency officials to improve our strategies and response during a severe weather event."  

– Rod McKinley, Chief of Human Resources & Safety  



The actions taken during a tornado warning depend on the construction and layout of each building in our district. In schools with hardened safe rooms or underground or partial underground areas, students and staff are ushered into the sheltering areas as quickly as possible.

Students at schools with no safe rooms or underground areas are ushered into the center part of the school building, lowest level, away from doors and windows and exterior walls. Administrators at schools sites are in constant contact during severe weather via 2-way radios programmed in cooperation with the city of Edmond Emergency Operations Center.

School staff has been trained on which channels to use in the event normal means of communication become unreliable.


3 Point Tornado Sheltering Plan

1. Cancel school for a District-Wide Weather Day. In the event of an extreme severe weather report, as notified by the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, Oklahoma, the Mid-Del Administrative Leadership Team will meet to consider school closure. 

2. If school is already in session, the district's automated notification system will notify parents of an Early Release Day. If students remain, we will relocate them to one of the District's safe rooms. Mid-Del Schools currently has three FEMA Standard 361 safe rooms in the District. These are located at Del City Elementary, New Midwest City Elementary and New Soldier Creek Elementary. (Relocation site will be communicated to parents). 

3. If we have no warning, we will immediately shelter all students and staff in the safest refuge areas within each school site and facility. However, we know from our research and study that these areas during an extreme-wind event should only be used as a last  resort.


MPS continues its policy of allowing parents to check their students out of school for severe weather.  One change this year is that when the sirens sound, the school will effectively be on lockdown and students will not be checked out and will shelter in place. 

Any adults on the school site will be encouraged to shelter in place in the school as well.  Plans for the most appropriate place to shelter within each school site have been under review with the assistance of outside experts since the beginning of the school year and in some cases have been updated as necessary. 

MPS will not close school based on predicted weather with the potential of sending a student to an empty home.  In the event that severe weather develops during a given day the appropriate action as described above will be taken. Other safety measures include helmets for every student and staff member in the MPS district.


All exterior doors and classroom doors will be immediately locked

Students, teachers, and staff who are outside will immediately re-enter the school and report to their designated area of refuge and remain there until an "All Clear" announcement is made.

No one will exit or enter the building.  Students will not be released to a parent, guardian, or anyone else once the tornado plan begins until an "All Clear" announcement is made.

Parents, guardians and other visitors who are in the building at the time may choose to take cover in a designated area of refuge as directed by an appropriate school official.

Parents may check their children out of school ahead of the severe weather threat. Parents who choose to keep their child(ren) home due to an expectation of a tornadic event may do so.  Such absences will be recorded as excused absences provided that the parent contact the school and report the reason for the absence.


Norman Public Schools works with the National Weather Service, Emergency Management and a team of city/county organizations to determine the safest sheltering locations at each school. It varies based on age, layout, architecture of each school.

Approximately one third of our schools have safe rooms and/or below-ground facilities that can be used for shelter.

Our policy at NPS has been to notify parents on days when severe weather is imminent (based on direct communications and guidance we receive from NWS) and allow them, depending on when we are made aware of a potential weather threat by NWS, to either keep their students home and/or pick them up early and that it will be counted as an excused absence.

Putnam City:

Because each school is different, each school has its own emergency plan. The shelter plan therefore differs by building, but in simplest terms, the plan is to get students to the safest places in the building as quickly as possible. Parents can always pick up their children whenever they wish.  The exception is if the tornado is close, students and staff will shelter in place.

Putnam City also has a bond election in August.  The proposal includes storm shelters meeting FEMA standards in nine schools and one early childhood center.


All dismissals will be suspended when weather conditions deteriorate to a dangerous level.  This means that when a severe weather WARNING is issued for our location and dangerous conditions are present, administration will order a lockdown.  All occupants of the building will move immediately to a designated protected area.

When the school is in lockdown, no person may enter or exit the building until conditions are deemed safe by administration.  If you are inside the building when a lockdown occurs, you may or may not be in the same protected area as students.

During lockdown, students will not be summoned for dismissal or transferred from their designated protected area to another area of the building.

Once danger has passed, lockdown procedures will be lifted and students will return to their classrooms.  Dismissals will resume according to the normal procedures.

Campus administration or designee will communicate via SchoolMessenger (our automated calling system) that a lockdown is in effect in your school.  When the lockdown has been lifted, a second message will be sent.  Communications will be issued in the timeliest manner possible.

If you choose to check your student out during inclement weather, please give yourself plenty of time to do so.  Continually monitor weather conditions for your safety and the safety of your student.

Students will only be released to persons identified in PowerSchool as your designee and they must have picture identification.  Please keep your information accurate and up to date.  Discuss these matters with your student.

Emergency Conditions:

An important part of our plan is to keep traffic lanes clear of vehicles in the event emergency responders are needed on campus.  It is also important for us to keep our phone lines clear.  We will communicate with parents through all available channels (social media including Twitter, Facebook, SchoolMessenger, District website, local media outlets).


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