Gwinnett public schools keeping eye out for tornadoes

With much of metro Atlanta looking for severe weather today, school systems are watching the skies and heeding warnings from local weather forecasters.

While keeping an eye on the weather, the Gwinnett County School District is sticking to business as usual.

“Yes, as you know, we practice tornado drills as part of our overall drill schedule. We know there is a possibility of severe weather and our safety personnel are monitoring the weather,” said Gwinnett County schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach. “If a warning or watch is issued we will begin putting our plans into action and communicate with parents whose children at saidtend individual schools affected.”

No announcement has been made for early release or cancellation of after school events.

MORE: Hail, storms, tornadoes could hit Gwinnett Monday

Shortly after noon, Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brad Nitz reported that he received new models that show the highest risk for severe weather in portions of western metro Atlanta.

NOAA’s National Weather Service urges that all schools develop plans and conduct drills to cope with tornadoes — particularly in the South and central states, where the threat is greatest. Tornado drills require different actions than fire drills.

Among details to consider:

Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A watch is when the possibility of tornadoes exists, and a tornado warning is when a tornado has been spotted or indicated on radar. Remember also there may not be time for a tornado warning before a twister strikes. Tornadoes form suddenly.

Each school should be inspected and tornado shelter areas designated. Schools with basements should use these as shelters. Schools without basements should use interior hallways on the ground floor 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.

Scchool buses should continue to operate during tornado watches, but not during tornado warnings. School buses are easily rolled by tornado winds.

RELATED: Tornado facts and safety: Everything you need to know

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, they should be instructed to respond to a specific command to assume protective postures, facing interior walls, when the danger in imminent. Such a command might be: “Everybody down!” 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.

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