|In the Vortex|
|Written by Cheri Clymer|
|Tuesday, 01 May 2007 00:00|
How can school bus operations best prepare for a tornado?
Part 2 of 2
When a tornado is forming, there is little time to make life and death decisions. Finding oneself in the path of a tornado is one of the worst situations a school bus driver could face. The best defense for employees is to become a weather watcher. Advance planning and quick response are the keys to surviving. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service provides an up- to-date resource for weather-related conditions:
Even with the watches and advanced warnings, your school bus driver’s quick thinking is the best protection.
If a funnel cloud is sighted, and a road is available, drive perpendicular to the storm’s path. Most tornadoes travel at speeds between 15 and 35 mph, although some have traveled as fast as 70 mph. However, if you can’t drive perpendicular to the storm, do not try to “outrun” the twister.
What type of shelter offers the best defense? Overpasses are typically identified as good places to make shelter during a tornado. This is a myth. Do not seek shelter beneath an overpass; overpass safety is deceiving. Most images of people taking shelter under an overpass were during weak tornadoes. The potential exists for wind speeds to be even stronger through the overpass than on level ground with no obstructions. The wind will change direction as the vortex passes. A vehicle seeking shelter in this location will likely be moved during the storm. If the vehicle does remain in place, the potential exists for flying debris to puncture the body of the bus and for the windows to be blown out, causing major injuries or even death to those inside.
The best avenue of escape is moving children to a tornado shelter, such as a basement or cellar, before a tornado approaches. In a basement, go to the center of the room and get under the stairwell or a heavy piece of furniture, such as a pool table or workbench. If a basement is unavailable, proceed to the lowest possible level ground and seek shelter inside a small interior room, like a bathroom, closet or hallway. Stay away from windows! Protect your head.
If there is no possibility of escape, the bus driver has few options. Although sheltering students in a steep ditch may offer the greatest potential for reducing casualties, accomplishing this task may be very difficult. However, if necessary, stop the bus and evacuate; use both the service door and emergency exits. Instruct passengers to exit safely but as rapidly as possible. Tell students to leave all personal items, such as books, purses and lunches. But have them to grab their jackets to help protect their heads.
Have your passengers lie flat in the nearest ditch or ravine. If a depression is not available, have them move well away from the bus, lie flat, face down, and cover their heads with their hands. They will certainly be exposed to heavy rain and hail as well as flash flooding of low-lying areas. Flying debris, which causes most injuries and deaths, can also be a potential problem. Driver training and fast thinking offer the greatest potential for small numbers of casualties. Remember, every emergency becomes a manageable situation with organization and planning.
NOAA will be happy to answer any questions or concerns. Please contact your local National Weather Service Office, local American Red Cross chapter or Federal Emergency Management Agency office for a copy of the “Thunderstorms and Lightning … The Underrated Killers” brochure (NOAA PA 92053).
Clymer is a certified pupil transportation safety trainer for the Thompson School District in Loveland, Colo. She is co-developer of the NAPT School Bus Emergency Manual.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 April 2011 16:20|