Are We Prepared for Mother Nature’s Fury?

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It’s an image seen every spring as local emergency sirens are tested and schools hold their state-mandated tornado drills, kids leave their classrooms and head for an area away from windows and other potential hazards.

But are Ohio school buildings designed to withstand Mother Nature’s fury?

Rick Savors, chief of media relations for the Ohio School Facilities Commission, said schools, like any public structure, must adhere to state building codes.

“The bottom line is the building codes throughout Ohio basically look at wind shear in terms of what’s the location of a building, how tall the building is, what’s the topography of the land,” said Savors.

Since 1997, the Ohio School Facilities Commission has provided billions to districts across the state to offset the costs of newer high-tech buildings. Districts using these funds are required to follow certain guidelines, but Savors warns no design is completely storm proof.

“Quite frankly, when you have that type situation it’s going to be virtually impossible to design any type of building that will withstand that type of hit,” said Savors.

With scenes of destruction that are coming out of Oklahoma, local emergency management officials are wondering if their existing plans, which are reviewed regularly, need another look.

“We really need to review our emergency plans more than annually,” said Dennis O’hara, Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency. “You have to follow your safety plans and practice them to the best that you can.”

Mahoning County Emergency Management Director Clark Jones said he wants to  look over his own plans and then sit down with local school superintendents to see what they can do to improve their emergency protocol.

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