Falls school district officially "Storm Ready"

Wichita Falls_The Wichita Falls School District has become the first in the nation to be declared "Storm Ready" by the National Weather Service.  To commemorate the honor, the school district held a big celebration on Friday afternoon at Hirschi High School in Wichita Falls.

Meteorologist Rick Smith from the National Weather Service presented the district with a "Storm Ready" sign in recognition of their achievement, and SkyWARN Meteorologists Dan Zarrow and Justin Rudicel were there to meet with students and faculty, where they showed off the 7News SkyWARN 7 Weather Interceptor that is used to report the latest severe weather information.

The "Storm Ready" designation means that the Wichita Falls School District has an emergency plan in place for when severe weather strikes.  This way, they won't have to second guess themselves, since the plan tells them step-by-step what they need to do to keep students and faculty safe.  "In north Texas and southwest Oklahoma, it's not a matter of if we're going to have severe thunderstorms and tornados, it's a matter of when it's going to happen," says Smith.

It's the National Weather Service's job to alert you to danger.  They provide the information for television stations to pass along, and now school districts are also in the loop.  "Communication is most important in the Storm Ready program," says Hirschi High School Assistant Principal Steve Farris.  "To get out the word as early as possible that something is coming about, and of course if there is a situation, we're constantly monitoring it and keeping teachers updated."

Keeping an eye on weather conditions is essentially what being "Storm Ready" is all about.  "Now that we're storm ready, people are going to know more about how to be prepared for storms," says Logan Parrish with Hirschi High School.  "Living in tornado alley, it's real important to know what to do when there's a tornado, and to know you're safe in your school so you don't have to worry about anything."

Since the Wichita Falls School District is the first-and-only one in the nation to receive the designation, it makes the honor an even bigger accomplishment.  "We were really excited so we started planning this big celebration," says Parrish.  "This proves that they've taken the initiative and had the vision to think ahead and plan for severe weather, and to be ready to protect the students, faculty, and staff when it happens."

Rick Smith with the NWS says there are probably other schools in this area that are storm ready, but he says Wichita Falls is the first district to complete the application process for the designation.  Not only is the Wichita Falls School District "Storm Ready," so is the city, along with Wichita County and Midwestern State University.