As the season of the tornado is quickly getting closer and closer, on Monday, the DeSoto County School Board in Florida gave its permission for the construction of secure rooms at a total of five schools across the county. The county has suffered from tornados in the past including devastation from a tornado back in 2002 in which horrifically destroyed an occupied school bus and did other major damages in the area of Lewisburg. This tornado caused several injuries and at least one death due to the storm within the local area.
The director of Physical Plant for the DeSoto County School District, Jerry White stated that the FEMA safe rooms, which are funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, will be able to house student body populations in order to protect the students from the predictable storms that may arrive. White then explained that the secure rooms will all be built specifically to protect and withstand during a typical F-5 tornado.
“We want our students and school personnel to be safe,” White said, adding the safe rooms would be open to the community when school is not in session.
The school district only has to fund $400,000 of the costs because more than 95 percent of the construction of the safe rooms is being paid for through the federal and state grants.
Owning a safe room within schools, businesses or your home can provide “near-absolute protection” within extremely close proximity. Secure rooms will avoid injury or even death from the extreme winds expected during tornadoes and hurricanes and from flying debris that tornadoes and hurricanes usually generate. Safe rooms will often hold communication devices like mobile telephones/landline telephones or a radio transceiver so that emergency services may be called if required within an emergency. Higher quality safe rooms may also hold security cameras and alarm systems for monitoring the rest of the building however, in a standard safe room, a small peephole may be located on the door for a similar purpose.
Safe rooms will not only provide great protection from adverse weather conditions but will also be able to protect staff and pupils that come under any sort of attack. It is becoming more commonplace, especially in the states, for schools to have special drills in place should events such as these occur. This is a result of the increased amount of shootings that have happened over the last number of years, the most notorious being the Colombine shootings in Portland, Oregon. By providing safe rooms in schools, children, teachers and other staff will be far better protected from gun crime and other serious dangers.
The current procedure in schools is for teachers to barricade themselves and their pupils in their classroom. Most schools now have a lockdown procedure set in place should a serious threat arise. This usually involves grouping the children together in a corner out of sight and away from any windows or doors. Ideally, a classroom toilet should be used, but in many schools this is not feasible. Installation of panic rooms will not only ensure everyone in the school is a lot safer but they can also act as a preventative measure. If a school or any other establishment for that matter, is seen to be putting stringent security measures in place, it is less likely that an act of terror will occur as it becomes more difficult for the assailant(s) to pursue their goal.
Unlike safe rooms in residential buildings, those built in school and other similar building can be built on a much bigger scale in order to accommodate a higher volume of people. The most common area used as a safe room in schools that have already installed them is the school gym or cafeteria.
Katy is a keen writer who has an interest in security, she currently writes for Sec Tech UK a company that deals with close protection and safe rooms.