Twenty-four hours after an EF5 tornado touched down in Moore, Oklahoma schools, hospitals and emergency crews in Central Wisconsin say they're prepared should a tornado strike here.
The death toll in Oklahoma currently stands at 24, including nine children. Two elementary schools we're directly in the path of that EF5 tornado. The thought of a school taking a direct hit from a twister is no doubt terrifying, but the staff at D.C. Everest Middle School in Weston says they're prepared should the worst happen. Principal Casey Nye says the key to safety is practice, running drill after drill for everything from fires to tornados.
"We exit the room. We get away from windows, doors, things like that. We get away from objects that could topple and get into a safe spot," Nye explains. "We do drill that annually and talk about it throughout the year."
Each classroom has a clear evacuation plan and each teacher is equipped with a complete roster of students in their care at any particular time. That ensures everyone is accounted for no matter when disaster strikes.
"Classrooms have very clearly designated either hallway spaces, some students end up in other rooms that don't have windows. Sometimes it's the bathroom. They're not always the most pleasant places, but the priority is student safety," Nye tells NewsChannel 7.
If there is advanced warning for the possibility of bad weather, Nye says the decision as to whether or not a child should go to school ultimately lies with the parents, but the district does take warnings seriously.
"I think it's a very tough decision that they take a lot into consideration when they make," Nye says.
D.C. Everest just installed a new emergency management system that sends text messages or automated phone calls to parents, letting them know the status of their child and where they can reconnect.
Hospitals are prepared for natural disasters as well. But because tornados can develop so quickly, and with little warning, evacuation, if necessary, is almost impossible.
"Unfortunately there is probably not much we're going to be able to do in terms of evacuation," EMS Medical Director at Saint Claire's Hospital Dr. Michael Clark tells NewsChannel 7. "So basically our protocol is to get staff and patients away from windows and get them to the most secure part of the area as possible"
For Ministry Saint Claire's, that would be the main floor near the center of the building. If hit, the hospital has the capability to transport patients to other surrounding facilities, some as far away as Milwaukee and the Twin Cities, while the building itself can run on backup generators for up to four days.
While hospital patients and staff are better off staying in the building when a twister strikes, local fire departments work to keep you safe by bugging out.
"If there is a tornado warning, we have our people come in and we get all of our equipment out of the building and that is a direct result of the June 1984 Barneveld, Wisconsin tornado'" Weston Fire Chief Steve Meilahn explains. "That tornado was rated F5 and destroyed the City of Barneveld, including the fire station and all emergency response equipment. We learned from that and we get out of the building. We stage in various areas of the community so that we can respond, be safe and not have a direct hit on our safety building."
While out, firefighters double as storm spotters, constantly updating emergency management as to the conditions on the ground. Following a storm, Chief Meilahn says the best thing or the public to do is stay clear of the damaged area. This will help protect you and them from hazards like downed power lines. It will also make their job of responding to those who need help the most a bit easier.
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