Area Students Ace Test Of Statewide Tornado Drill

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Megan Carter gets a little wide-eyed when she says she has seen a tornado.

Thankfully, it was only on television - and the Pleasant Hill Elementary School sixth grader hopes that's as close as she ever gets.

"You can lose your house," she says of the dangers twisters pose.

Megan was among students at Pleasant Hill enuring they would know how to keep themselves safe if a tornado ever gets close for real. The school took part in the Kansas Statewide Tornado drill, a chance to practice their severe weather lessons.

The drill took place at 1:30 pm Tuesday. At that time, Pleasant Hill activated its alarm. Students immediately emerged from classroom doors. Megan said their assignment was to walk quickly and quietly through the halls, down the stairs and into a designated room in the school's basement. The basement, she says, "because that's the safest place to be."

Megan's younger brother, Noah, is a second grader at the school. He added another part of the lesson.

"We put our heads down and put our arms on our head," he explained, saying that is so, if something falls on you, your head does not get injured.

Administrators say the drill gives students and staff a change to practice as well. Moments before the siren sounded, some staff members donned colored vests, outlining their special roles during an emergency. Principal Dedra Raines had a yellow vest with a label designating her the incident commander, while other staffers had vests declaring their roles in communications, transportation, security, medical and other areas.

Sixth grade teacher Rolf Chappell, who's taught for 32 years, says the teachers' role is to get students where they need to be in a safe and calm manner. He says they also are tasked with grabbing several items from their classrooms on the way out, including the laptop computer if they are able, a safety manuel and a class roster. They must ensure everyone in the class is accounted for.

The Pleasant Hill students passed Tuesday's test with flying colors, cheering when Raines announced they'd set a new record in arriving at their designated locations in less than two and a half minutes.

The results calms the fears of teachers, like Chappell, who say safety is a responsibility they take to heart.

"As I tell them every day, I treat them just like my own son," Chappel said. "It's a big (responsibility)."

Shawnee County Emergency Management Director Dave Sterbenz said all 63 of the county's sirens functioned properly in Tuesday's tests, though some did indicate they need their backup batteries replaced.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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