This beep over the intercom at Meridian Public School's R.D. Harris Building sounded precisely at 9:15 Wednesday morning. Students and teachers know that means they need to line the hallways as fast as possible because they're under a Tornado Warning. Assistant Principal Shirley Mosley says that Wednesday morning's drill was one of many, and it went off without a hitch.
"We practice different drills throughout the school year, so throughout the year we'll have tornado, evacuation, fire drills. There are drills constantly."
The alert was broadcast over NOAA Weather Radios exactly like a real Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Warning would be. When that happens, all of Meridian's Public Schools are in constant contact with the central office and they start getting students and staff to safety.
"Normally we're given directions from our central office and Mr. Hubbard will contact all of the administrators. We will start our emergency crisis plan, and our teachers are to follow the crisis plan."
During her 13 years spent in education, Mosley's participated in countless drills, but she's also had to sound the alarm when severe weather was actually occurring. She says that she knows they're prepared for bad weather because of the drills.
"Because of the practice and all of the different drills that we have, the kids, the teachers, they know exactly what to do."
Thanks to their practice and knowing what to do, students were back in class at 9:21, a mere six minutes after the drill began.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency offers these guidelines for when a tornado is imminent.
If you are in your home:
· Go to the lowest level of the home, an inner hallway, or smaller interior room without windows, such as a closet or bathroom.
· Get away from windows and go to the center of the room.
· Get under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a workbench or a heavy table.
If you are in a mobile home:
· Evacuate the mobile home, even if it is equipped with tie-downs.
· Take shelter in a building with a strong foundation, or if one is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area that is a safe distance away from the mobile home.
· Tornadoes do not change elevation quickly enough to pick someone up out of a ditch, especially a deep ditch or culvert.
If you are at work or school:
· Go to an inside hallway at the lowest level of the building.
· Avoid places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums unless they are a designed safe room, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.
· Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
If you are outdoors:
· If possible, get inside a sturdy building with a concrete foundation.
· If shelter is not available, or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building.
If you are in a vehicle:
· Never try to out drive a tornado. Tornadoes can lift a car and toss it in the air.
· If there is no time to get indoors, get out of the vehicle and lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle.
For more preparedness information please visit MEMA's website. A link is provided below.