In presenting the measure (LB 741) before the legislature’s Education Committee, Senator Murante notes fire drills are mandatory in Nebraska’s schools, but not tornado drills.
“Most have some sort of a plan of action,” Murante says. “I don’t think this is meant to be any sort of indictment on the schools or the state of Nebraska. It is, rather, an effort to make sure we are well prepared.” The idea for the bill was brought to Murante by a group of students in the Millard Public School District, including Matthew Heftie.
“Nebraska averages about 50 tornaodes a year and is ranked 5th in the U.S. for total numbers of tornadoes,” Heftie says. “I think tornadoes can be like a bomb and not practicing tornado drills is like dropping it in fire. Eventually, the bomb will go off and people might be injured. This is basically what will happen with tornadoes if no drills are done.”
Another Millard student, Andrew Dolan, told the committee passage of the bill would make school safer for students and staff. Dolan said schools should be as prepared for tornadoes as they are for fires through conducting drills.
“Tornadoes can appear quickly and cause a lot of damage to a school, like what happened in Oklahoma last year,” Dolan says. “I think if we have more tornado drills, we’ll be better prepared if something like that happens here.”
Murante’s bill would require at least three tornado drills per year, require that public school districts create a diagram showing a visible route to a tornado shelter, provide for safe and orderly movement of students and require a plan detailing what to do when a tornado siren sounds.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice