The Severe Weather Safety Checklist for Schools

  • Oct 15, 2018

What do you do when severe weather threatens your school?

A severe weather safety checklist for schools is something every educational institution needs. It doesn’t matter if you’re an elementary school or a university: Severe weather is a threat to everyone.

While there is no one solution that fits every case, the best route to safety is always preparedness. The following checklist was developed by the experts here at Earth Networks. This checklist is designed to help school administrators understand what’s needed for an effective severe weather safety plan.

The Severe Weather Safety Checklist for Schools

Read through the following checklist and let us know if you have any questions, comments, or steps to add in the comment section below.

Know Your Threats

You know your area well enough to understand what severe weather threats are most likely to impact your operations. If you’re near the coast, hurricanes might be a big issue for your school. If you’re in the Midwest, your greatest threat may be tornadoes.

Regardless of your largest threats, it’s also important to plan for the more common severe weather conditions as well. For example, thunderstorms can happen nearly any where at any time. Everyone school, no matter the size, should have a plan for thunderstorms.

We recommend making a list of your area’s common severe weather conditions.

Develop An Action Plan

Once you make a list, it’s time to prepare. You’ll have to take action to protect everyone on campus during severe weather.

If you do not currently have a severe weather action plan for your school, developing a plan will be a large part of your preparedness work. In fact, you can even use this checklist as part of the plan.

Most severe weather safety plans for schools will involve weather intelligence and alerting tools, meteorological support, a map of shelters, and detailed protocol.

Who Activates the Plan?

Once you have a plan in place, you need to know who is going to activate the plan. Some schools rely on an administrator, but that isn’t best practice.

You should rely on an automated piece of equipment or the advice of an expert meteorologist. These are the two most reliable ways of ensuring the success of your severe weather safety plan.


Identify Shelters

Now it’s time to identify shelters at your campus. You’ll need to take a look at the physical layout of your school and buildings to determine designated shelter areas. Use a map of your campus to help determine where the safest area is.

Ideally, during instances of extremely severe weather, you’ll want to move students to the lowest floor possible. Interior rooms, like offices and bathrooms, also offer the greatest shelter from dangers associated with tornadoes and high winds.

Another recommendation is to avoid areas with high ceilings, like gyms, cafeterias, and auditoriums. This is because there is a greater risk for ceiling failure.

One last good rule of thumb is to avoid using portable classrooms as shelters. If you happen to have portable classrooms on campus, make sure those teachers and students know where to go in the case of severe weather ahead of time.

Fetch Accurate Weather Data

If you want to protect students from severe weather, you need the best weather data to do so. That means you can’t rely on free weather applications and websites.

Why? These sources aren’t the best for a few reasons. The first is that they often don’t update quickly enough to reflect the current weather conditions. Severe storms can move in quickly, so you need the most accurate weather data.

A second reason why these free weather systems are a dangerous gamble is because they often don’t gather weather information from close by. A lot of free weather applications push data from your nearest airport. This is a big problem, though, because weather conditions can differ greatly just by a mile. You need hyperlocal weather data in order to truly get the most accurate alerts.

A commercial-grade weather data provider will also help you monitor the storm as it approaches and then leaves campus. Weather maps help storm spotters understand risks that aren’t immediate, so you can better prepare everyone.

Notify Everyone

How will you let everyone at your school know there are severe weather risks on the horizon?

Your schools should have an alert system that automatically warns key personnel of severe weather threats. These types of Outdoor Alerting Systems work best when they are connected to a total lightning network. While lightning may not be the biggest threat to your school, total lightning is a great advanced warning sign of other severe weather events like hail, heavy rains that produce flooding, and tornadoes.

We recommend horns to alert everyone as well as text message alerts. Having multiple, automated forms of delivery means there is a higher chance that everyone will receive and heed the warnings.

Practice Your Plan

Practice, practice, practice! One of the most important items on this severe weather safety checklist for schools is to practice.

Just like a fire drill, you should have regular severe weather drills to help students, teachers, and other staff understand what to do in a real severe weather situation.

Run-through’s will help familiarize everyone with your severe weather warning systems and shelter areas. It will also help you identify any areas of your plan that need improvement.

Damage Assessment

If a severe weather event like a thunderstorm, hurricane, or tornado does impact your school, you’ll need to assess the damage. As soon as conditions are safe (Our Outdoor Alerting System has an “all clear” alert) you should assess all the buildings before releasing people from their shelters.

If buildings are damaged, you’ll need to keep those in safe shelters in place and move those in compromised buildings to safer areas.

What Did We Miss?

Does your school already use a severe weather safety checklist? Let us know if we should add anything to ours. If you have any questions for our weather experts, you can also ask those in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading and we’re proud of your for taking an important first step in  protecting your campus from severe weather.