How prepared for disasters are Portland and Vancouver schools?

How prepared for disasters are Portland and Vancouver schools? »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – Unlike hundreds of schools in Oklahoma, the two schools hit by the tornado Monday did not have safe rooms.

Seven students of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., were killed in the monstrous tornado.

We checked into what measures that schools locally have in place in the case of a natural disaster. Tornadoes are uncommon in Oregon and Washington, but they do happen along with other disasters.

Neither Portland nor Vancouver Public Schools have a specific plan for tornadoes, but school officials say their disaster plans would be similar for tornadoes.

The plans are tailored to earthquakes, such as instructing children to “drop, cover and hold on.” Students are also taught to move to interior parts of the buildings away from low ceilings and windows and sometimes out of portable buildings. 

Parents and teachers say they trust that schools in the Portland metro area are safe as they can be, given the resources available.

“The building would tumble in the event of an earthquake, but what they’re doing is making sure kids could get out in the event of an earthquake,” said Chris Wiegand, whose daughter is in the third grade at Alameda Elementary School.

An example of a disaster safety plan that was executed successfully was in response to the fire that heavily damaged the Marysville School in Southeast Portland in 2009.

No one was injured in large part because everyone knew what to do.

Portland Public Schools recently received a grant to strengthen its disaster plan and also started performing regular earthquake drills. They do two at every school every year.

Also, the 100-year-old Alameda School is the first in Portland to get retrofitted for earthquakes, thanks to a grant and public bond money.