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Tornado drills held across the Midwest - Jasper tests procedures - KOAM TV 7

Tornado drills held across the Midwest - Jasper tests procedure for new storm shelter

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Students in Jasper, Missouri joined participants across the nation in a tornado drill as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week.  With tornado season not too far off many area towns used Tuesday to test their town sirens and procedure.

NOTE: While many communities tested their sirens on Tuesday, Pittsburg will also be doing tests of their sirens throughout the day on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jasper, Missouri's FEMA shelter has only been in use since December and the school district was anxious to test out their new game plan.

Prior to the completion of the FEMA built storm shelter, tenth grade student Hayden Davis says students had to make due with current spaces.

"We had the high school basement and whenever we were in the gym we went to the locker room," says Davis.

Remaining students ducked for cover in school hallways.

But after Joplin's tornado many students were nervous about the methods.  And Davis says many of his friends were excited to see the new FEMA building open in December.

"One of my friends - he was because he was partially in the tornado, he was driving through it, so he was hoping we'd get a building so we wouldn't get destroyed too," says Davis.

School counselor Dana Sisk says tornado drills are important and national tornado drill day was as good of a day as any to try a dry run for the first time.

"We just want to make sure that we are utilizing our building to the best of our ability," says Sisk.  "We are very grateful to have it.  We want to make sure we get the kids out there safely and orderly and practice is the way to do that."

With less than 500 students in the entire school and a capacity of 1,600, the storm shelter has more than enough room for the schools and the surrounding community.

"That was part of the grant, that it was a community safe place, so it just makes sense that it is used by everyone because it's owned by the community in essence," says Sisk.

In addition to keeping his town safe Davis says he also appreciates that the facility is multi-purpose and gives him a space to both practice basketball and eat lunch.

The drill itself took less than five minutes and according to administrators the test run of the new facility was a success.

Pittsburg State also participated in the tornado drill.  They tested the university's alert systems including outdoor speakers, the schools emergency texting service and social media outlets.

University officials say it's really important to make sure these alerts are up to par.

"Because that is the way people communicate these days, they use social media in addition of having the text messaging, and outdoor voice, we have capabilities through Twitter and Facebook to send out alert messages," says Mike McCracken of PSU.  "We hope that allows us to reach more people and reach people more effectively too."

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