Experts encourage planning to keep children safe in tornadoes - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Experts encourage planning to keep children safe in tornadoes

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A tornado flattened a school in Oklahoma Monday afternoon. A tornado flattened a school in Oklahoma Monday afternoon.
The March 2012 tornado in Henryville also struck the town's school. The March 2012 tornado in Henryville also struck the town's school.
INDIANAPOLIS -

As emergency workers tried to rescue children trapped in a tornado-damaged school in Oklahoma, parents in Indiana are trying to find ways to make their own families safe in severe weather.

Marion County has a new program that's just coming online to make school even safer in storms and other situations.

One look at the Oklahoma onslaught and emergency management expert Peter Beering says "this is clearly the worst case scenario for a weather emergency."

Beering knows something about weather crises and planning and reacting to them. He helped order evacuation of the Indianapolis 500 as a post-race tornado threatened in 2004.

Running drills, planning, and clear lines of communication are all keys to dealing with a weather threat, Beering says.

"Before a response even happens, the object is to find the most hardened part of the building," Beering says.

He's talking about establishing storm plans well in advance - now required by Indiana law.

Some students died in Oklahoma Monday when their school came down around them, but rescuers were able to bring most students out alive. They knew where to shelter.

"We do go out and do surveys, we walk through schools," says Chief Gary Coons of Indianapolis Homeland Security in the hours after the Oklahoma storms.

"It helps us, it allows us to know where the kids will be if there was a tornado and there was a structure collapse," Coons said.

Crews could then better focus their search and rescue. Now, there's something new: Digital Sandbox. All schools will put all their safety plans into a database, which police and firefighters can access in any crisis from storms to shootings.

"It will provide us the ability to know also what's around us so if we need to evacuate a school we know where all the resources and assets are around the school," Coons said.

Indianapolis mother Angela Lee says planning means everything.

"As for the building, structure, it has to be safe for the children. How safe are they? They can go in the hall, duck their heads and things like that," she said.

But, she asks, how safe are they?

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