Every storm, every region, and every school are different. When you find yourself in a severe weather event—or preparing for inclement weather—it’s important to understand when to activate various components of your severe weather plan.
When to Activate Your Response Plan
Below is some guidance to help you determine what steps to take based on common weather events that are typically predictable.
Tornado, Flash Flood, or Severe Thunderstorm Watch
Postpone outdoor activities and move students from mobile classrooms and/or outdoor facilities and fields into the physical building. Monitor weather alerts for updates as the storm approaches your school.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
If your school is in the path of the storm, complete all tasks above and be prepared for high winds, possible hail, and flooding.
Immediate and full activation of your plan is required. Move everyone to the lower-level of your buildings (if possible) and into the assigned safety zones. Everyone should take the “tornado safe” position and be prepared to take shelter for at least 45 minutes. Hold students and staff in the classrooms, even if it is time to move class periods or dismiss students from school. Students are safer at school than on the road when severe weather strikes.
Hurricane, Tropical Storm, and Depressions Watch
Continue to monitor the situation and be ready to act quickly if the storm is upgraded to a Warning.
Be prepared for hurricane-force winds and possible flooding. Monitor the hurricane’s path and intensity. It is highly recommended to close schools and evacuate the area before the hurricane begins to impact your community.
Winter Storm Watch
Continue to monitor weather conditions and be prepared to respond when/if the watch is upgraded to a Warning.
Winter Storm Warning
Consider sending your designated security team to check roads for ice or snow. Assess current weather conditions and determine whether to cancel, delay, or hold classes.
When to Close Schools
If you receive weather alerts outside of school hours, you need to first consider whether you should cancel or delay classes. It’s important to keep your school community’s safety top of mind when deciding when to cancel, delay, or hold normal classes. These decisions depend on many factors, including but not limited to:
- What meteorologists and regional officials recommend
- How much time you have before the storm hits your school or if the storm is already active
- The probability of the storm strengthening and what impact the storm will have
- If students and staff will be put in danger if they are released from school
- If students will be exposed to extreme rain, wind, heat, or cold, either at school or at bus stops
Districts and schools should leverage local news stations, media, the school’s website, social media, and other means to communicate any school closures, schedule changes, or operations information to the community.