Tornado Drill Prepares Fargo Schools for Disaster

An evacuation at a Fargo elementary school.

The tornado siren blares through Washington Elementary School.

The roof of the building partially collapsed.

At least that’s what students and teachers are simulating.
“Something that certainly takes a lot of care and a lot of planning,” says Fargo Public Schools Business Manager Broc Leitz.
Fourth Graders were loaded on buses and moved to North High School, where a crew of dozens worked to reunite the students with their parents.
Leitz explains, “Dispatch almost the entire district office to the building to do the re-unifications, so we make sure we have enough assistants to make sure we’re helping parents find their children and get home safely.”
Sometimes it’s not just as clear cut as getting a child back to his or her family.

The school district practices a wide variety of scenarios. Almost anything can happen during an emergency.
Students and teachers at North High School played parents trying to get their students after the tornado.

Some parents were easier to deal with than others.
Theater teacher Tom Gillen says he played an, “aggressive parent who has a restraining order against him.”
Parents fill out forms that say who can pick up a child during an emergency.

Gillen’s job was to try to throw a wrench in that plan.

He says he failed.
“If the adults behind me were not here, it would be chaos,” he adds.
People here say it’s important to prepare for potential different variables.
“With so many parents and so many cultures, you have to do something like this,” says Gillen.
Organizers hope this exercise gives parents piece of mind during tough times.
Leitz assures, “And as difficult as it is, if this were a real procedure we would ask the parents to stay calm and really trust the school district to know that we will get you safely reunited with your child.”
Organizers say overall they were pleased with the results of the drill, saying students and staff performed well.

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