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Statewide tornado drill set Thursday

Statewide tornado drill set Thursday

March 9th, 2011 in News

Missouri students and others throughout the state will participate in a statewide tornado drill on Thursday and perhaps learn how to avoid a panic that hit the city last Friday during a real tornado warning.

Because rain was predicted on Tuesday, the National Weather Service on Monday postponed a planned statewide tornado drill until Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

The weather forecast is for sunshine all day Thursday, making it an ideal day for the exercise to help prevent people from thinking the drill is real.

Thursday's drill involves the entire state of Missouri.

Maj. Roger Rice of the Fulton Police Department said last Friday the Fulton Police Department was flooded with calls from people who wanted to know why sirens were sounding in Fulton.

"People calling here were panicked. They need to become educated on what they plan to do in the event of a tornado or other emergency. They need to figure out in advance what they should do. When the emergency siren sounds that means it is time to act. Last Friday the Police Department switchboard was jammed with calls from people who were panicking and didn't know what to do," Rice said.

Rice suggested that people make a list of what to do and where to go during a tornado warning. They could keep it on their refrigerator or some other handy location.

"They should tune in to a local radio or television station to learn the latest information on where a tornado is located," Rice said. Calls to the Police Department when sirens are sounding should be only for emergencies that may be occurring, not from people seeking casual information, he said.

Kathy Wright, community relations director for Fulton Public Schools, said all Fulton school children will participate in Thursday's statewide tornado drill.

"They will go to a specific designated area and take cover. Children will be instructed to cover their heads. Teachers with rosters of student names will perform a roll call to make sure everyone is accounted for. At this point the drill is considered over and students will return to their previous class or activity," Wright said. The entire drill, she added, probably will take 15 minutes or less.

Wright said the Fulton Middle School last Thursday completed its surprise tornado drill that is conducted each spring. "It's a better test if they don't know it is coming," Wright said.

Last Friday Fulton students experienced a real tornado emergency when sirens sounded after a tornado was spotted as school was dismissing. Students on buses were taken back to school for shelter until the all-clear notice came from the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service reports that last year Missouri experienced 65 tornadoes. Last Dec. 31, a series of tornadoes hit the state on New Year's Eve that resulted in five deaths and 13 injuries. Four of the five who died were in mobile homes when the tornadoes struck.

Paul D. Parmenter, director of the Missouri Emergency Management Agency, said the entire drill Thursday can be completed in 15 minutes. After hearing outdoor warning sirens or broadcast drill messages, people are asked to practice taking shelter.

Parmenter said the safest shelter location is an interior room without windows in the lowest level of a building.

Parmenter said businesses and schools participating in drills should consider the drill over after everyone takes cover and is accounted for in designated shelters.

Parmenter said people should learn the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service.

A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible because weather conditions indicate a tornado could form at any time. During a tornado watch people should remain alert for approaching storms. They should watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA weather radio, commercial radio or television for information.

A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted in the area or indicated on weather radar. When a warning is issued people should take shelter immediately.