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New Columbia middle school storm shelters follow updated building codes


Columbia Public Schools is continually working to ensure its buildings have a safe place for students and staff to go in the case of severe weather, and the newest additions John Warner Middle School is no exception.

"This is the first year that John Warner has been open. We completed construction over the summer. It was a multi-year project. It's obviously a significant one for our community," said Michelle Baumstark with Columbia Public Schools.

"Just like any of our new facilities that have been constructed over the last several years, it does include some additional features related to storm shelters," she said.

There are three areas in John Warner Middle School that serve as storm shelters: the auxiliary gym, a locker room area, and a self-contained special education room.

"With the design of a building overall there are spaces that are specifically designated as areas where students can shelter, and so that might be a hallway that's reinforced with no windows," she said.

In 2015 building codes changed and made it mandatory for pre-K-12 schools to have storm shelters.

In 23 states, including Missouri, those storm shelters have to be able to withstand winds created by a tornado that reach 250 miles per hour. The shelters also have to be able to resist the debris that can fly at them during an event with winds that high.

Baumstark said all of Columbia Public School's buildings are inspected annually to determine if the designated locations meet the needs based on the number of people in that school and more. CPS has someone from its safety and security department, and emergency responders from the Columbia Fire Department look at how many people can safely gather in a shelter space.

She said when schools have more than one area where students can take shelter that can help staff move students who may not be able to move quickly in an emergency situation.

"We do have the warning systems in place, however, we still have a limited amount of time in order to be able to execute your emergency plan," she said.

CPS also works to ensure students and staff know where they should go if there is severe weather. The schools run drills regularly to make sure they are prepared. Every classroom has a designated area where they go.

"That's not just when you think about severe weather, that's when you think about fire and the other emergencies that a building or a classroom might face," Baumstark said. "The other part of that is is the practicing, so those are the drills. Making sure that kids know exactly what to do should there be an emergency. You want it to be second nature."

Boone / Columbia / Severe Weather / Top Stories / Top Stories / Video / Weather
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Sydney Olsen

Sydney Olsen reports in the evenings during the week and on the weekend.


1 Comment

  1. If the Columbia Board of Education really cared about student and staff safety, they would allow trained teachers and staff to have firearms to defend themselves from crazed gun persons (gender neutral term).

    The firearms could be kept, until needed, in small handgun safes that open very quickly.

    When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

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