Tornadoes in Arkansas

As stated by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), when we compare tornadoes to other natural
disasters, tornadoes are considered to be the most violent (FEMA, 2008, p. 1).  Arkansas is no stranger to deadly
tornadoes.  FEMA states that tornadoes
can reach up to 300 miles per hour (FEMA, 2008, p. 1).  According to FEMA, tornadoes occur frequently
in the Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest (FEMA, 2008, p. 1).  While schools are subject to many types of
threats, “tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in
seconds (FEMA, 2008, p. 1).”  With
respect to tornadoes, “the state of Arkansas ranked fourth in the nation in
deaths and fifth in injuries caused by tornadoes” (2008).  There are staggering statistics that state
“annually there are nearly 30 tornadoes with 9 of them categorized as being
strong to violent” (2008).  Arkansas is
considered to be within the Tornado Alley. Tornado Alley is an area within the
country that suffers high numbers of tornadoes each year (FEMA, 2008, p. 2).

Preparing for Disaster

In this article, the author
describes the need to educate the community in regards to severe weather.  When the article was published in 2008, the State
of Arkansas was participating in four different awareness weeks in regards to
natural disasters.  During Severe Weather
Awareness Week, FEMA spreads the message about how to effectively prepare for
tornadoes (FEMA, 2008, p. 3). 

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Safe Schools

            Many people within a community
consider their local school to be a place of safety and comfort.  Due to this fact, schools are often looked at
to provide a safe location during natural disasters.  According to FEMA,

Schools are often considered
pillars of a community’s identify.  Shelters
in schools can be convenient and recognizable locations for residents to gather
when a community is threatened by a tornado or severe weather.  When not in use as a shelter, the space can
be used for community activities (FEMA, 2008, p. 6).

Tornado Outbreak in the River Valley

            In the
past several years, the River Valley has been hit by tornadoes each season.
According to FEMA,

During the spring of 1996 the
cities of Van Buren and Ft. Smith were struck by an F3 tornado destroying 1,949
homes and 201 commercial properties.  Damages resulting from this event were in
excess of 30 million dollars.  Many
people were injured and 3 fatalities were recorded.  Several school district buildings were
damaged or destroyed.  (FEMA, 2008, p. 7)

FEMA states that after the tornado outbreak in 1996, Fort
Smith and Van Buren were able to utilize Pre-Disaster Mitigation grants to
build 9 storm shelters (FEMA, 2008, p. 7).

Financial Support for Shelters

According to FEMA, “during the
ten years following the 1996 tornadoes in Fort Smith and Van Buren, these
school districts received $11,700,000.000 in mitigation grants and constructed
22 community shelters on their campuses (FEMA, 2008, p. 7).”  The funds brought in to construct the safe
rooms also provided a large amount of revenue for the community.  Local businesses were able to benefit
financially and the community gained access to the community shelters.

 

 

Implications for School Administrators

The decisions made by a school
district can affect large numbers of people. 
These decisions have the ability to impact the lives of our community
for years to come.  This impact can be
either positive or negative based on the decisions of administrators in charge.  The Educational Leadership Constituent
Council (ELCC) states that one primary role of a school administrator is to promote
a safe learning environment for students. 
Administrators must be committed to the safety of all students and the
community in which the school resides (ELCC, 2002).  School administrators must make it a priority
to find funding to better prepare our schools in the event of a natural
disaster.  School districts can seek
funding from the federal government to fund up to 75 percent of the cost of the
shelter. 

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