During times of severe weather and tornadoes, one of a parent’s biggest fears is how safe their kids are at school.
However, one Tennessee county school system has taken big steps to put those fears at ease.
The city of Paris, Tennessee, and Henry County are no strangers to tornadoes.
Since the year 2000, the county has had eight confirmed tornadoes, causing 27 injuries and two fatalities.
Recently, the school system began retrofitting the hallways in several of the schools to make safer tornado shelters for the kids.
The walls, ceilings and floors were re-enforced with steel, making a structure capable of withstanding 250 miles-per-hour winds, which is the power of an EF-5 tornado.
“When you look at what a tornado can do and the devastation, it just makes all the sense in the world to provide the safest environment you can,” said Henry County School Superintendent Sam Miles.
The shelters are also good for earthquakes or school lock downs due to other dangers in the area. The shelters will also be open to people who live in the area.
“Each hallway is equipped with these doors at ends of the hallway. And you just simply close the door, and latch them. Now each end is secured, and the teachers secure their own classroom doors individually, and that seals the system,” explained Lakewood Principal Mike Bell.
Amy Veazy, Lakewood Elementary School Principal, recalls one parent who was glad the Lakewood shelter was available.
“We were under a tornado warning at the time, and a parent came from just right down the road to get their children, and we begged them, ‘please stay with us. You’re going to be safe here, if you stay with us and be in the hallways’. The family did stay. The dad stayed with his children and when they left our campus, they went home to find their home gone.”
The shelters were built with help from grants from FEMA and TEMA, allowing the county to only bear about 11.5 percent of the cost of $3.8 million.