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Is Your Child's School Prepared For Disaster?

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The video of two Moore elementary schools ravaged by Monday's tornadoes brings a powerful reaction from parents: What if that were my child's school? The video of two Moore elementary schools ravaged by Monday's tornadoes brings a powerful reaction from parents: What if that were my child's school?
Part of the Oklahoma Emergency Management Act of 2003 requires all schools to write up a disaster and emergency preparedness plan and keep it on file with their local emergency management office, and update it each year. Part of the Oklahoma Emergency Management Act of 2003 requires all schools to write up a disaster and emergency preparedness plan and keep it on file with their local emergency management office, and update it each year.
Tulsa Public Schools' emergency manager, Bob Roberts, said every school's disaster plans should be on file, along with his. Tulsa Public Schools' emergency manager, Bob Roberts, said every school's disaster plans should be on file, along with his.
Roberts takes TPS's plans even further and makes sure all local first responders have them for every single school, and can open them on their on-board computers, as they are racing to the scene. Roberts takes TPS's plans even further and makes sure all local first responders have them for every single school, and can open them on their on-board computers, as they are racing to the scene.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

The video of two Moore elementary schools ravaged by Monday's tornadoes brings a powerful reaction from parents: What if that were my child's school? How would rescuers know where to find my child? Would they have the resources to get to them quickly when every second counts?

It turns out lawmakers acted on those fears after the 2003 tornado that hit Moore and Southeast Oklahoma City, with the Oklahoma Emergency Management Act of 2003.

Part of that law requires all schools to write up a disaster and emergency preparedness plan and keep it on file with their local emergency management office, and update it each year.

That is not happening.

Complete Coverage: May 2013 Tornado Outbreak

At the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, I found only two local school districts have fully complied with that law.

Tulsa Public Schools and Cascia Hall have disaster plans on file, updated in 2012.

Jenks, Bishop Kelley, Monte Cassino, Berryhill and OSU Tulsa have disaster plans on file, but they are not up to date.

The director of the agency, Roger Jolliff, said he knows the big districts have plans and practice emergency drills, but he can't force them to comply with the law.

"It's up to the schools to bring them to us and we encourage them to do so," he said.

Jolliff admits first responders have never asked him to produce a school's plan during an emergency, but said, if schools would keep them on file it would be a good way to ensure they have plans and are updating them as needed, especially small or private schools that are currently falling through the cracks.

"As an emergency manager, it'd be great with me if, the first day of school, every year, if people haven't turned their plans in and they don't have current plans, they can't start school," Jolliff said. "Do you go that far? What do you do?"

Tulsa Public Schools' emergency manager, Bob Roberts, said every school's disaster plans should be on file, along with his.

"Well, I think it's important that they have all the schools'. Obviously, a school that's in my district is no more or less important than a school in some other district," Roberts said. "If you're a parent you want your school to have those plans in place."

Roberts takes TPS's plans even further and makes sure all local first responders have them for every single school, and can open them on their on-board computers, as they are racing to the scene.

5/21/2013 Related Story: Few Oklahoma Schools Have Real Storm Shelters

Beyond telling them where children are sheltered, "This shows where the utility cut-offs are. It'll show where the doors are that are open to the public and the hours that they are open to the public," Roberts said.

Little details that can make a big difference when every second counts.

Several surrounding school districts are supposed to keep their plans at their local emergency management offices, but, again, I found many of them are not.

Bixby and Sperry Public Schools have filed updated plans with their local emergency manager. Sand Springs, Owasso, and Broken Arrow have not.

I talked to administrators at most of the schools.

Sand Springs administrators said they never heard of the law requiring them to keep their disaster plan on file with their emergency manager, but they have an updated plan and they practice it all the time. All first responders in Sand Springs have digital copies of the plans and school building maps/blueprints, etc.

Union Schools has a disaster plan and they practice it all the time. They also did not know they were supposed to keep the plan on file at Tulsa's OEM, but said they'd get it there as soon as possible. Administrators said they did not know if first responders in Tulsa had their plan or maps or blueprints of their schools.

Owasso and Broken Arrow schools say they have plans, practice them often, and keep them on file within the district.

Other schools have not yet responded. We will post their responses when they become available.

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