The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the National Weather Service, local emergency preparedness directors and all four school districts in Oregon County will be participating in a statewide severe weather drill this month.
The date set by the state for the drill is March 13, but due to some of the school districts being out of school that week for spring break, their drills have been scheduled for either before or after March 13.
Thayer, Alton and Koshkonong will all be on spring break but all have emergency preparedness plans.
Thayer School District held their drill March 6.
Thayer High School Principal Kevin Hedden said the drill is practiced every year. "This year our drill started at 9 a.m. and included both the high school and elementary campuses," he said.
He said the drill was coordinated with officials from Thayer City Hall. Thayer Emergency Preparedness Director Mark Arnold who is the industrial arts instructor at the high school.
The Alton School District will also be on break March 13. Alton School Superintendent Sheila Wheeler said the principals in her school district are planning the drill when the students return after spring break. "This is something we do at our school every year. We will sound a special bell, three short rings, which will alert students and teachers a tornado is possible."
She said anyone in any of the buildings will then take proper shelter and cover their heads.
Wheeler said the school district takes the drills very seriously.
"We evaluate the drills afterward to see if any improvements can be made to ensure the safety of our students," she said.
Koshkonong School will be on spring break March 13.
"One of the first things we do the beginning of each school year is to go into each class and teach the students the different bell ring tones associated with different disasters," Koshkonong High School principal Jeanie White said.
She said the school does this four times during the year at different times during the day.
Couch School will be in session the day of the statewide drill.
Couch School Superintendent Tom Bull said his school will be participating in the state wide drill.
"It is set for 1:30 p.m. Our bells at the school will ring continuously until the drill is complete," Bull said. He said his district practices the drill at least twice a year.
State officials said the drill should take less than 15 minutes to perform.
Oregon County Assistant Deputy Eric King also serves as the county emergency preparedness director.
"On the day of the statewide drill Troop G will get on the radio and call every sheriff's department in their district and we will respond that we are aware of the drill," King said.
"Once the severe weather announcement is made, citizens are asked to seek shelter in the lowest level (basement if possible), interior room and away from windows. Schools and businesses might seek shelter in basements, hallways or under staircases." He added the drill also highlights the importance of accounting for everyone once the drill is complete.
He said if Missouri is experiencing statewide severe weather the day of the drill, the drill will be held March 15 at 1:30 p.m.
Although the state of Arkansas does not have a state severe weather day planned, the Mammoth Spring School District does have a plan in place if such a disaster should occur.
"We will be having a tornado drill sometime this spring," high school principal Brain Davis said.
He said all schools in the state have a crisis plan whether it is severe weather or terrorist threats. "We take this very seriously."