When a Tornado Threatens

Tornado Safety in Sports Arena

It is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Ohio. That means all schools in Ohio went through tornado drills this week. Kids were taught the necessity to react swiftly and orderly in the event the Real McCoy came along.

Tonight on First at 5, I have put together a story on safety in big buildings when a tornado threatens. Specifically, I was intrigued by the tornado that struck the Georgia Dome in Atlanta right before the Kentucky-Georgia game in the SEC tourney 2 weeks ago.

Last week, I toured the Big Sandy Superstore arena with G.M. A.J. Boleski. A native of the tornado alley in Kansas, A.J. knows all too well the might of a twister. "We reviewed our tornado policy. This is a sturdy building which was designed to withstand a hurricane or tornado. If a tornado warning occurs while we have a game or concert going on, we will have the event announcer calmy inform people of the storm. We will instruct people to stay in the bowl since that is where we are safest."

Since there are only a few glass door windows out near the ticket office, the risk of shattering glass is low at Big Sandy. But not so at the Charleston Civic Center says G.M. John Robertson. "We are safest inside the arena/field of play. We have a lot of glass as people walk into the civic center. We want to get together with police to make sure people are safe and stay away from the glass.".

At the Schottensteins Center in Columbus, there is a bigger risk. Here in Central Ohio there is a favored tornado belt on the flat plains and farmlands of the eastern Midwest. So Buckeye fans heading to the "Schot" should be happy to know that the Center's event staff has a plan in place to keep them safe.

So, do you know what to do if you are caught at an arena when a tornado warning is issued?

In a nutshell, there are a few key points that are universal.

1. Listen to Event Announcer and obey his/her instructions. Remember, all buildings have safety procedures in place and will be able to execute those in a timely fashion.

2. Avoid glass and windows. High winds will blow glass in. This makes the outdoor foyers and ticket offices the most vulnerable to danger.

3. Big buildings are built to withstand high winds. Inside the building then is a naturally safe place to be.

Outdoor events like Spring football games, concerts and festivals are vulnerable to flying debris (tents, props, poles) so if caught in a bad wind storm or tornado, indoor shelter offers a safer haven than staying outside.

Food for thought as we enter our severe weather season in April.

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