Weather officials to give schools hazard-alert radios

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe Christmas Truce of 1914 proved that peace is possibleMany were concerned when they arrived and saw the roof lying on the side of the building. But their children were safe and had not even seen the damage occur, the principal said. Hoping for more such success stories, federal officials planned to announce today in Washington that hazard warning radios will be supplied to all 97,000 public schools in the United States. The National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, operates more than 950 short-range radio stations. It has encouraged schools, business and homeowners to buy warning radios that are activated with a broadcast signal that automatically turns a radio on and announces a potential hazard. The Homeland Security Department now has decided to provide $5 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration make sure these radios are in every public school, NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher said. Originally conceived as a means to deliver weather warnings, the system now covers many hazards – for example, terrorism, child abductions and derailment of trains carrying toxic materials. WASHINGTON – When the squeal from an automated warning radio brought news that a severe storm was approaching, a school principal in Endicott, N.Y., acted quickly. William Tomic alerted teachers to bring children to a secure interior hallway for shelter. Minutes later, 70 mph winds ripped the roof off the kindergarten wing of the Charles F. Johnson Elementary School in Endicott. No one was hurt, thanks to the warning and the timely response to it. “It really did work very well. We were so pleased with it,” Tomic said in a telephone interview. “The parents were as well.” It takes more than just having the warning radio. School authorities have to know what to do when an alarm sounds. Tomic said his school has two weather drills a year. Each classroom has a kit that the teacher brings along to the shelter area to keep the children occupied with games, stories, songs and other activities. In Fairfax County, Va., three tornado and severe weather drills are held annually, said Fred Ellis, the director of safety and security for public schools. “Certainly we’ve had our share of severe weather,” Ellis said, noting the radios have been in county schools for several years. Typically such radios are kept where there is always someone to monitor them during school hours. “They make quite a racket,” Ellis said, and alert administrators to what is happening outside their buildings. “We’re not immune from severe weather, and we take that very seriously,” Ellis said. In announcing the plan to distribute the radios, the NOAA administrator pointed out that more than 10,000 major thunderstorms, 2,500 floods and 1,000 tornadoes hit the U. S. annually, and hurricanes threaten the Gulf Coast and East Coast. Lautenbacher said National Weather Service personnel will be available to assist school officials in determining how best to use the radios. The radios operate 24 hours a day, receiving forecasts and warnings from the Weather Service’s 123 forecast offices as well as other information. Six states – Washington, Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland, Florida and Mississippi – already mandate use of the radios in schools. NOAA said those schools will also be included in the new program to make sure they have the most recent models.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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