Locals hope to learn from Oklahoma tornado response
As stories of survival and courage spill out of Moore, Okla., local emergency crews are taking note of how such a tragedy can actually help emergency preparedness in Union County.
"We will certainly be monitoring the after-action reports from the incident, to take lessons learned and discuss them with the schools," Marysville City Fire Chief Jay Riley said.
Both he and Brad Gilbert, director of the Union County Emergency Management Agency, said anything that trains people ahead of time about what to do or that provides advance notice of pending storms will help if a tornado or other disaster occurs.
Gilbert said the EMA works a lot with local school districts in preparing for weather emergencies.
"This past Monday, we were at St. John's (school) to watch them conduct their tornado drill and offered suggestions. We regularly do that with public and private schools each year as requested," Gilbert said.
In 2012, the county EMA conducted a tornado exercise with North Union schools in a scenario in which a building was "hit" by a tornado.
"The students were evacuated to a nearby church and other students were treated on scene by EMS," Gilbert said.
The exercise helped the agency anticipate various scenarios in an emergency situation similar to the one experienced in Oklahoma this week, he said.
"Flying debris or structure collapse is the largest danger," Gilbert said.
Riley said the fire department also works with local schools to provide the highest level of preparation and safety for students and staff.
"Each of the school facilities is different, and each school can specifically identify the areas of their facility that they use in the event of a tornado warning," Riley said. "We work with the schools to identify areas that have no windows and are constructed of block or hardened materials that would protect the students from flying debris and building collapse."
Examples of such areas include locker rooms, bath rooms and band rooms, he said.
During tornado drills, Marysville students are instructed to sit with their back against the wall to protect their spines and to tuck their heads down and put their hands on their heads for protection. Assistant Superintendent Andy Culp said the district conducts 10 fire drills and three tornado drills each year.
"We are very aware of our risk to severe weather and are always looking at ways to improve early warning and provide information to the community on what to do when a tornado warning is issued," Riley said.
Gilbert said preparedness includes knowing the safest spot at home, school or business and being notified when to seek shelter.
He suggests residents have a NOAA weather radio on hand and sign up for Code Red service that sends notification about tornado warnings to home, work or cell phones. To register for Code Red, log onto www.unioncounty.oh.us and click on the Code Red Weather icon.