Tornadoes are most common in the southeastern United States during spring and summer, although they can happen anywhere and anytime. Warning signs include an eerie stillness in the air, a sudden change in the color of the sky and a roaring sound like an approaching train. Many states regulate how daycare facilities prepare for this kind of emergency. A written plan prominently displayed and practiced is recommended for any daycare.
Know your region's history of tornado activity. Sign up for text or e-mail alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Radio, know where to find their local station on your radio dial, and keep spare batteries handy. But be aware that neither history nor official warnings offer complete certainty; it's up to you to stay alert in conditions that may result in tornadoes forming. Determine the safest place in your building -- a basement or interior room -- and keep it accessible and free of heavy items that could injure someone.
In many states, licensed child-care facilities are required to have emergency plans in place. Check your state's regulations to make sure that you're in compliance. Meet with staff first, and make sure everyone knows the safest way to reach the safety area, avoiding glass windows and doors. Do a walk-through, and post diagrams in prominent locations. Make sure your plan includes securing vital documents such as parent contact information. Notify parents when drills take place so that they can prepare their children and be prepared for any questions that may arise afterward.
Preparing the Children
Make the first tornado drill of the year part of a larger lesson about extreme weather. Find out what the kids already know and don't know; some may have emergency preparedness plans at home. Demonstrate the "cover position," kneeling knee-to-chest with hands clasped covering the head. Explain the importance of staying calm, cooperating quickly and paying attention to instructions during the drill. Have the children practice the cover position.
Practicing the Drill
When a tornado warning sounds, children need to proceed to the safety location quickly, carefully and quietly. Depending on the age and number of children in your care and the nature of your facility, you may want to teach them to gather at the door of the classroom or play area and be escorted by an adult or to go directly to the safety zone. Once there, children should assume the "cover position" along an interior wall and wait for an adult to give the all clear. Tornado drills should take place at the beginning of a school year or term and again at least once during tornado season; monthly drills during the season are even better.
- US Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Child Care:State Regulatory Requirements for Emergency Preparedness Planning
- Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services: Tornado Drill Procedures
- State of Michigan: Sample Emergency Procedure Plans
- Storm Prediction Center: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Tornado Preparedness Tips for School Administrators
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: How To Prepare For A Tornado
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: National Weather Radio
- Ig0rZh/iStock/Getty Images