Colorado schools prepare for severe weather emergencies

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DENVER -- Staff at the Windmill Child Enrichment Center in Windsor say they will never forget the tornado that ripped through their town five years this week.

Shawna Bruntz says, “Every time May 22nd comes around, it’s not just a day.” Five years ago, it was a cold, rainy day in the town of Windsor, but Bruntz says a tornado never crossed her mind. “Nobody would have gave one thought to it.”

Her day would much worse. With roughly 100 children in the school, Bruntz says the weather changed quickly and out of nowhere, “A parent walks in and says, ‘there’s a tornado up on the hill, you guys need to take cover now.’”

Bruntz and the other teachers huddled together with the children in the gymnasium, and pressed against a wall for cover as debris circled around them.

Luckily, no one was seriously injured at the school, but Bruntz says they were not fully prepared for a disaster like that. In fact, she didn’t think they would ever have to leave the building.

Since the tornado, the school now has emergency bags in classrooms with blankets, and first aid gear, and even other necessities like extra diapers. The school also has a weather radio. “It is set for severe thunderstorms, and set for tornado warnings or watches.”

Denver Public Schools don't take any chances either.

With more than 80,000 students, all DPS schools have emergency plans in place. Even the architecture of each school is analyzed, so safe zones can be mapped out ahead of time.

The goal is to find areas away from windows and in the center of the school so there’s a buffer zone that debris can’t pass through.

All DPS principals and emergency staff are required to attend regular safety training classes, because when disasters strike they need to make split-second decisions. Staff say regular drills not only help students prepare, but teachers as well.

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