When I was a kid attending Brighton Elementary School in my sleepy southern Illinois hometown, once a year we would conduct a tornado drill and once every three years we’d get a tornado scare.
The drill consisted of a piercingly persistent bell, a single file line from the classroom, and an orderly aligning of little bodies along a sturdy school wall. You know the routine: Knees to the floor, head between your knees, fingers interlocked behind the head, and wait for that cursed bell to end. The entire process always seemed safer to me than standing on the roof, let’s say, but hardly safe. It seemed then to be thirty years behind progress and that was thirty years ago.
So imagine my surprise to learn that the school in Oklahoma City that was struck by an F4 Monday utilizes the same archaic method for keeping kids safe. After all, this is Oklahoma. Residents aren’t exactly unfamiliar with tornadoes. Spending money on new gym equipment or a gunman to patrol the campus I would think should rank behind establishing a safe room for tornado protection.
I understand the clay of Oklahoma makes digging basements difficult, but is a reinforced structure designed for multiple purposes but used when needed as a tornado hub out of the question?
It costs money, yes I know, but in April of 2013 Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed four bills into law intended to keep Oklahoma school children safe from a mad gunman.
School shootings, as horrific as they are, remain an incredibly rare event, where tornadoes rip through Oklahoma on an average of 55 twisters per year. I get it. Funding for schools is difficult to come by, but shouldn’t we first focus funding to be used against recurring threats to the safety of our school children?
It is estimated that a homeowner who desires to build a safe room or storm shelter would spend $10,000 on such a project. That may be too pricey for the average homeowner considering the rarity of being hit by a tornado. But, even though larger and more costly, I would think every Oklahoma community might justify the cost for their schools.