As you read through this tornado scenario, use your practice checklist to ensure each step of the response is being followed.
It’s a beautiful sunny morning, but daily weather reports indicate possible thunderstorms in the afternoon. Thunderstorms are common in your area this time of year and not usually a cause for alarm. However, you are prepared in case things change. You have a programmed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio and you receive weather alerts on your cell phone.
Scenario 1: Child Care Center
After lunch, the sky becomes cloudy, so you instruct staff to keep children indoors for play. Around 1 p.m., you are notified of a tornado watch for your area. Your center is in a well-built facility, so you visit each classroom to be sure staff and volunteers are aware of the weather conditions and are ready to take shelter if the weather alert says to shelter in place or if your NOAA radio tells you to alert them using a whistle. One preschool class has a substitute teacher; she has been trained, and you confirm that she knows the procedure and the safe area for her class. Most classrooms and nurseries have restrooms along the interior wall that can provide safe shelter. However, two of the preschool classes are instructed to walk across the interior hallway to the main restrooms for shelter.
What if you don’t have a basement or interior room?
Your NOAA weather radio alerts you that the tornado watch has been moved up to a tornado warning; it’s time to have the center shelter in place. You use your emergency whistle to signal staff to take shelter. The teachers count heads and then move children into the restrooms for shelter, according to the plan. Children are told to sit on the floor and cover their heads, while staff take count of children again. A child in a wheelchair could be covered with a blanket, with an adult there to protect the child from debris. You check in by sending a text message to each teacher to make sure that everyone is safely sheltered. You receive the all clear from local first responders, which you communicate to staff using your emergency whistle. The teachers count heads and return to the classroom. After checking in with each teacher, you communicate what has happened to parents/guardians.
Scenario 2: Family Child Care Home
You do not have a basement or interior room that is structurally safe for a storm. However, you have an agreement with a church nearby that you use as a safe shelter. When you hear that the tornado watch is now a tornado warning, you count heads, grab your emergency kit, and begin to evacuate. The church is only a block away, and the weather event is not yet in your area so it is safe to walk if you leave immediately. Your preschool children get their backpacks and you walk to the church, with children holding a walking rope. Once you arrive, you take the children to the interior room where the church typically conducts children’s activities and instruct them to implement procedures as practiced—get low to the ground and cover their heads. First responders arrive and let you know that there has been damage to nearby areas and homes. You are not sure if your home has been hit, but it is safe to leave the shelter. You call parents/guardians to let them know that they should pick children up from the church and that you will contact them about plans for the following day, once you assess whether there is damage to your home.
What if there is no time to safely evacuate?
Your NOAA weather radio alerts you that the tornado watch has been moved up to a tornado warning. Your home does not have a basement or an interior room safe for shelter, and there is no time to get to your normal evacuation spot at the church across the street—you need to shelter in place. You remain calm and tell the children that you all need to go into the bathroom and sit in the bathtub, as it is a structurally solid part of your home. Ensure that they are sitting down and covering their heads, away from any windows. You and the children wait out the tornado in the bathroom until you receive an all-clear emergency alert from your NOAA radio.
Questions to consider while reading
- What are some good ways for a center to communicate that shelter in place needs to occur? Texting? Email alerts? Other ideas?
- If you do not have a good shelter-in-place spot in your child care program or center or family child care home, what community resources can you use that would be safe in case of a tornado? What partnerships or agreements do you need to make while you do your planning?
- What if there is no time to safely evacuate? If you do not have a good shelter-in-place spot in your child care program or center or family child care home, what community resources can you use that would be safe in case of a tornado?
- What partnerships or agreements do you need to make while you do your planning?
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
Last Updated: December 18, 2019