Students Are No Strangers to Emergency Drills

Gov. Bob McDonnell has declared March 15 Tornado Preparedness Day in Virginia.

Even though tornadoes are rather uncommon for the Shenandoah
Valley, they do happen, and it's best to always be prepared.

Fire drills happen all the time at most schools, but tornado drills in Virginia only occur once a year.

Michelle Gilbert teaches third grade at Pleasant Valley Elementary school and says it's important for students to recognize the dangers.

Gilbert says, "Tornadoes can happen not only when they're inside, but when they're outside as well. I think they need to be aware of what to do at all times."

The Shenandoah Valley is not a stranger to severe weather and tornadoes have touched down in the area before.

Since records have been kept, Augusta County has had the most at ten confirmed tornadoes, and Rockingham County has had six.

Gilbert says, "I think it's important to [let the students] know that our world has things that are out of our control."

The students learn about weather in their classes, and before the drill, teachers talk to them about tornadoes.

Teachers also show them the proper position to assume during the drill to keep them safe.

Teachers and students talk openly about tornadoes so kids aren't as scared, and they are encouraged to ask questions.

Twenty or 30 years ago, the only drills that were frequently practiced were fire drills.

Now, emergency drills, such as tornado, lockdown, intruder or chemical spill drills, are a common occurrence for students.

Principal Paula Frazier says they have procedures in place for any sort of disaster or emergency and they practice these drills at school and at emergency, off-campus locations.

"I think students need to know that their world is a little bit bigger than what they're used to," says Gilbert.

Forecasters are expecting a busy severe weather season this year.

The peak tornado season for the Shenandoah Valley is in July. However, the strongest storms usually happen in late spring.

Harrisonburg City Schools did not participate inTuesday's drill because of an administration meeting.

Many city schools are holding their drills Wednesday, and the remaining schools have drills scheduled within the next few weeks.


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