More Virginians prepared after statewide tornado drill

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Most of you likely remember doing tornado drills in the hallways of your elementary school, and that's certainly part of what today is all about.

But more than that, Tornado Preparedness Day is about preparing all Virginians to stay safe during a severe weather emergency.

Businesses, organizations, local and state government agencies, and many schools in Virginia took part in this morning's annual Statewide Tornado Drill.  A record 1.2 million Virginians registered their participation.

After the alarm sounded and an announcement was made, students filed out of their classrooms and got into the protective position at Mechanicsville Elementary in Hanover County.  We followed along as principal Amy Woodward and Hanover county firefighters checked and cleared the school.  It's a simple drill with a big impact.

William Jones, Hanover County Battalion Chief says, "we find that most of the children take it home to the parents.  They go to their parents and say the safe place for us will be an interior closet or something like that."

We covered a tornado last year that touched down near the county line, leaving destruction in it's path.

Jones says, "just being prepared, where to go, where to be, you don't have that time, when it comes, it's usually minutes away, and if you don't know where your safe place is, it could be a detriment to you and your family."

Now, these students and teachers are prepared, along with about 500,000 others from schools, businesses and homes.

It's something state leaders and firefighters are excited about.

Jones says, "the way you train and the way you react, it's unbelievable the damage a tornado can do to a facility and if you are in a proper place, then you have a better chance to survive it."

"Tornado drills are not just for schoolchildren," said Michael Cline, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.  "In fact, 16 tornadoes struck Virginia last year and fortunately, not one hit during school hours.  All Virginians should practice tornado safety by conducting drills at home, at work and at school."

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