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Illinois Requires Annual Severe Weather Drills At Schools

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UPDATED: 5/21/2013 3:47 p.m.

DARIEN, Ill. (CBS) – In case you’re wondering, after seeing the devastation in Oklahoma this week, Illinois schools are required by the State Board of Education to conduct severe weather drills once a year.

WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya visited Darien School District 61 in the southwest suburbs, where Supt. Bob Carlo said his schools are safe, but he pointed out, “You can only plan so much.”

Carlo said he’s sure everything possible was done in the schools in Moore, Okla., but the “destruction was so massive.”


At District 61′s Mark Delay School, a school with nearly 600 pre-kindergarten to 2nd grade students, principal Lisa Kompari said she and her staff reviewed their weather emergency plan and believe it will keep kids safe.

Kompari said her school does tornado drills twice a year; once in September, and again around March when tornado season is hitting.

During those drills, an announcement is made, then students go — as a class — to a designated site. For most classes, that site is one of the school’s learning centers.

“They get on the ground, generally in the kneeling position, they duck their heads down, cover the back of their necks. Teachers take attendance to see that we have all the kids accounted for,” Kompari said.

If all students are accounted for, the teacher holds up a green sheet of paper. If someone is missing, a red sheet is held up and staffers talk by radio as they check for that students.

Carlo said students need to feel safe, and conducting drills is an important part of that.

“We like to let people know we have security plans in place, severe weather plans in place, so when something happens, it’s not a new event for us. We try to keep the children as calm as possible, as if it’s a routine matter,” he said.

When it comes to what to say to students about the Oklahoma tornado, it depends upon the students’ ages.

Kompari said, in her school with such young students, “In our age group, we talk about the safety we have in our building and we’ll leave most of the discussion up to the parents. If they have lots of questions about what happened, we say go home and talk to your parents about that.”

Plans and drills aside, Carlo said even though his three schools are safe, “for any tragedy, you can only plan so much.”

Architect Cliff Bender survived one of the deadliest tornadoes to hit the Chicago area: The one in Plainfield in 1990. When deadly winds blew through the town, Bender was attending a meeting at Central high school. He escaped seconds before the roof collapsed.

Bender was the architect for the rebuilt school, and it was designed with tornado safety in mind.

“The inside corridors have reinforced steel to make them more resistant to collapse,” he said.

The rooftop also has a steel frame, and there are also 90 degree angles throughout the building to prevent wind tunnels.

Could the building survive a 200 mph wind like we saw in Oklahoma?

“There’s no sure thing,” Bender said. “If a tornado like the one in Oklahoma hit, parts will go down.”