Good practices for both schools and residents can be found in the press release below:

North Carolina Emergency Management and the National Weather Service (NWS) urge all schools to develop plans and conduct drills to cope with tornadoes. Tornado drills require different actions than fire drills. Here are some items to consider: 

  • Remember that the NWS issues a tornado WATCH when the possibility of tornadoes exists; and a tornado WARNING when a tornado has been sighted or indicated on radar. Remember, tornadoes can form suddenly and there may not be time for a Tornado Warning before a twister strikes. Teachers and students should know the difference between a Watch and a Warning.
  • School officials at the state and county level should have a plan for rapid dissemination of tornado Watches and Warnings to every school in the system – either by radio or telephone.
  • Each school should be inspected and tornado shelter acres designated. Schools with basements should use these as shelters. Schools without basements should use ground floor interior hallways that are not parallel to the tornado’s path, which is usually from the southwest. Never use gymnasiums, auditoriums or other rooms with wide, free-span roofs. Teachers and students should know their designated shelter areas.
  • School administrators should establish procedures governing use or non-use of school buses during tornado Watches and Warnings. Generally speaking, school buses should continue operating during tornado Watches, but not during tornado Warnings. School buses are easily rolled by tornado winds.
  • During a tornado Watch, specific teachers or other school staff members should be designated to monitor commercial radio or TV for tornado Warnings, even if the school has a NOAA Weather Radio tone-alert system. Weather spotters also should keep on eye on the sky for dark, rolling clouds, hail, driving rain, or a sudden increase in wind, in addition to the telltale funnel. Tornadoes are often obscured by precipitation or darkness. Other public agencies also report tornado sightings.
  • A special alarm system should be designated to indicate a tornado has been sighted and is approaching. A backup alarm system should be planned for use if electrical power fails – perhaps a battery-powered bullhorn, an inexpensive hand-cranked siren, or even an old-fashioned hand-swung bell.
  • Specific teachers should be assigned to round up children on playgrounds or other outdoor areas during a tornado Warning. Otherwise, they might be overlooked.
  • Children in schoolrooms of weak construction – such as portable or temporary classrooms – should be escorted to sturdier buildings or to predetermined ditches, culverts, or ravines, and instructed to lie face down, hands over head. Most tornado deaths are caused by head injuries.
  • When children are assembled in school basements or interior hallways during a tornado drill or Warning when the danger is imminent, they should be instructed to respond to a specific command to assume protective posture, facing interior walls. Such a command might be “everybody down! Crouch on elbows and knees! Hands over back of head!” It is essential that this command be instantly understood and obeyed. Illustrations showing the protective position should be posted on bulletin boards.
  • If a school bus is caught in the open when a tornado is approaching, the children should be escorted to a nearby ditch or ravine and made to lie face down, hands over head. They should be far enough away so the bus cannot topple on them. School-bus drivers should be regularly drilled in tornado procedures.
  • School district officials planning new buildings or additions should keep tornadoes in mind when setting construction standards.