KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A brochure for a high-winds refuge area workshop held recently at Kansas State University said it all.
How safe is your school?
About 20 school officials, facility managers, architects and engineers attended the one-day workshop held in Manhattan, Kan., on Nov. 9 and hosted by K-State's Department of Architectural Engineering and Construction Science and the university's Division of Continuing Education and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VII.
Kansas law requires that all schools identify refuge areas for their students, teachers and staff in the event of a high winds or tornado emergency. Although a sound policy, schools should further ensure that their designated areas are in fact safe havens when high winds develop. Specifically:
- Is the identified refuge area the safest area in the school?
- Is the safety of the refuge area (such as a hallway) overestimated?
- To what degree is the safety of the refuge area overestimated?
The goal of the workshop was to give teachers, administrators, facility managers, architects and engineers more information on the many factors that can affect the safety of their schools. Thus, the workshop provided participants with:
- A tool for evaluating the existing relative safety inside a building
- A tool for evaluating relative safety among a group of buildings.
- A tool for prioritizing future construction.
Bob Franke, a civil engineer with FEMA's Region VII office in Kansas City, Mo., attended the workshop, the first held by K-State. He said that in addition to learning about protecting individuals, participants also learned about the threats to property posed by microbursts and gust fronts.
"Participants learned how to evaluate existing facilities for occupant tornado protection based on guidance contained in FEMA's Design and Construction Guidance for Community Shelters," Franke said. "This is an important workshop since guidance of this type has not been available previously."
For a copy of Design and Construction Guidance for Community Shelters, call the FEMA Publications Distribution Facility at 1-800-480-2520. Ask for FEMA 361.