Joplin Schools Heighten Emergency Safety Moving Forward
JOPLIN - One month has past, and the displaced students of Joplin are adjusting to their new schools. But beneath the surface, fear remains. The intense surveillance footage from the high school has forced us all to stop and re-evaluate safety measures.
"... certainly May 22 changed the face of our community and brought a lot of anxiety and concern around storms," Joplin Schools Superintendent C.J. Huff said.
Anxiety translates into fear.
"There's always that level of fear that pushes people to do things and I think that is a good thing ... gives us an opportunity to better prepare for emergencies and if the emergency never happened, we would probably take those things for granted," storm shelter contractor Paxx Burk said.
And Paxx Burk knows all about preparing for emergencies. He builds storm shelters.
While they aren't bullet proof, Burk said they're close.
"There are actually two or three layers of metal reinforced with plywood on the inside, they are glued with an extremely modern adhesive that reinforced all of it and creates a box beam style constructions," Burk said.
"So the whole system together as it is fabricated can withstand not only uplift from a storm and high winds, but it can also take impact from the outside from falling structures, cars being blown into it, trees being hit against it," Burk said.
Some of the storm shelters are across the street from the new Franklin Technology Center.
The old Franklin Technology Center is a pile of rubble waiting to be hauled away. Across the street is the old Joplin High School. Standard protocol for a tornado warning evacuates students from the classrooms, moving them into the hallways. But in light of the May 22 tornado, the superintendent said the school district's policy is about to change.
"The biggest factors that have changed the way we look at tornado safety in our schools, is the dramatic video from our schools security cameras during that storm... and as you look at the hallway areas and common spaces that you would typically house kids in duck and cover positions during a tornado, we felt pretty strongly going forward we needed to look at that," Huff said.
A policy that would've put hundreds of students "into" harm's way...
"You know an EF 5 tornado is not the norm but you've got to prepare for the worst and prior to May 22, we thought we had been prepared for the worst, but we had no idea what a tornado of that magnitude could do to a school," Huff said.
In the aftermath of the tornado, one thing was clear. Hallways were not the safest place.
"Going forward, even prior to the tornado, prior to May 22, our goal was to have safe rooms in every facility, and our goal now is to follow through with that," Huff said.
Huff says the school district plans to accomplish that within the next three years. For now, students, teachers, and parents can rest easy knowing that safety has become the highest priority.