Elementary School Participates in a State-Wide Tornado Drill

By: Amelia Nahmias Email
By: Amelia Nahmias Email

HARRISONBURG -- Gov. Bob McDonnell declared Tuesday “Tornado Preparedness Day” for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The statewide tornado drill happened at 9:45 a.m. Gov. McDonnell asked all schools, colleges, universities, businesses, families and individuals participate.

A WHSV reporter visited Waterman Elementary to watch how students prepared for tornoadoes.

Cecelia Thomas, a 5th grader, is familiar with tornado drills. Tuesday she went through her 5th one.

"I was in reading room, and when the announcement came on, Ms. Yoder had totally forgotten, so she just told us to line up at the door and we came down here," said Celelia.

Everyone was against the wall crouched and covering their heads.

"We never know what's going to come next. We had an earthquake at the beginning of last year, so we never know when a tornado might come, so we need to be prepared," said Jeremy Weaver, the principal.

Practicing is important so students and teachers can learn from every mistake.

"Reflect back and say, 'What went well? What can we change next time?' So that in the event of an actual emergency our students and staff will be safe."

Sometimes, circumstances cannot be controlled. On Tuesday, some students were near a window.

"Every building has it's challenges. Waterman is 101 years old. It wasn't really built with the thought of having 450 students."

That's why Cecelia was given extra instructions.

"Get down and scoot close together so theres lots of space for everybody," she said.

Principal Weaver said the students are always learning about safety.

"We practice drills all the time. Once a month, we do a fire drill. This is a drill that we only do once a year, so our kids aren't as used to this," he said.

Used to it or not, everyone was ready on Tuesday.

"They were in position within two minutes. It's not uncommon to get about a three to five minute warning. That meant that they were in position within plenty of time," said Paul Helmuth, a safety officer for the Harrisonburg Fire Department.

Cecelia described what it was like to go through the drill.

"It's a little scary, but it would be really scary if there was a real tornado," said Cecelia.

Last year, tornadoes injured six people and caused $3 million in property damage in Virginia. The year before 212 homes and 17 businesses were destroyed.

Before tornado season offically starts, Gov. McDonnell wants everyone to be prepared.

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