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Community Safe Room FAQs

What are Community Safe Rooms?
Community Safe Rooms are structures that were built to withstand severe weather events including tornados in accordance with Federal Emergency Management requirements. Joplin Schools was able to add these structures to several district buildings following the May 22, 2011 tornado thanks to a federal grant for construction. 

Who should utilize Community Safe Rooms in an emergency?
All Joplin residents are welcome, but Community Safe Rooms are spaced across our district in such a way that they are intended to be available to residents within a half-mile radius of each building. This distance is informed by the need for residents to travel quickly to the nearest safe room, and that they should be able to arrive in less than 5 minutes walking time. We do not recommend residents outside of this 5-minute walking zone attempt to access the safe rooms in an emergency. This Community Safe Room Map includes circles around each safe room to delineate the intended radius of residential users.

When are Community Safe Rooms open to the public?
Community Safe Rooms will automatically open to the public upon activation of a Tornado Warning by the National Weather Service or a tornado siren by Joplin Emergency Management. In the case of a Joplin siren, the automated openings must be triggered remotely by a district staff member. After the doors are unlocked through the automated system, a district staff volunteer will arrive to supervise the room. Rooms will remain open until the warning period is canceled. 

Who owns and operates the Community Safe Rooms?
The Community Safe Rooms listed on this website are owned and operated solely by Joplin Schools. They are not owned, managed, opened, closed, or overseen by the City of Joplin in any way. 

Are there staff on-site at a Community Safe Room when it's open during a tornado warning?
Joplin Schools staff volunteers sign up to supervise Community Safe Rooms and will arrive at the safe rooms if a tornado warning is issued. These supervisors will remain on-site for the duration of a warning event to ensure district safe room processes are followed, and will empty and close the room at the termination of a warning event. They will also provide follow-up information to district administrators about safe room attendance, behavior, issues, etc. 

What if there's a tornado warning during the school day?
A tornado warning that occurs during the school day means that all students and staff present in the building at that time will be taking shelter in their attached safe room. In this case, students and staff will have first priority for shelter space. Community members are still welcome as space allows, and will be directed to a separate side of the room from students.

Are Community Safe Rooms ever open during watches (as opposed to warnings)?
Community Safe Rooms may occasionally be open during a watch or prior to a warning. As a reminder, a watch means a tornado could happen, and a warning means a tornado is happening according to storm spotters or radar indications. If there is a warning in a contiguous county to Jasper and/or Newton that is forecast to cross into our counties, the safe rooms are likely to be opened and this will be done remotely by a district staff member. If safe rooms are opened during a watch or prior to a warning, a notification will be posted on the district's Facebook page and in ParentSquare.

Why are there regulations on how we can bring our pets to Community Safe Rooms?
Per district protocol, community members are welcome to bring pets into a safe room only if the pet is kept within an airline-approved pet carrier. Leashes are not considered airline-approved pet carriers. This protocol is in place to ensure all residents and their pets remain as safe as possible. Severe weather events often cause pets to become agitated or anxious, and the trip to a safe room full of strangers and strange animals may exaggerate that agitation. We understand pets are like family and we want to be sure they are safe alongside their owners. 

Why are there no Community Safe Rooms at Dover Hill or the Middle Schools?
Dover Hill, East Middle School, North Middle School, South Middle School, Roi S. Wood, and  Memorial Education Center all have safe rooms for use by students and staff in the event of a tornado warning. To qualify as a Community Safe Room, the structure must be able to be completely shut off from the rest of the school building and must offer outside access to residents. Non-community safe room schools do not meet these qualifications so they are not currently accessible to the public during a warning. 

There was a tornado warning, but I did not see a Facebook post or other notice that the Safe Rooms were open. Does that mean the rooms were not open?
No. Any time there is a warning or sirens, the Community Safe Rooms will be opened. Please do not wait for notification from the district to seek shelter. In some cases, district staff responsible for notification may be impacted by the severe weather event and unable to access the internet, electricity, or other tools to complete a notification, so safe room openings are not contingent upon a community or district notification.

If there is a tornado warning in our county, but the news and/or radar indicates the tornado is nowhere near Joplin, will the Community Safe Rooms be open?
Yes. Any time any part of Jasper County is in a tornado-warned zone, Joplin Schools Community Safe Rooms are automated to open. We know storms can change direction in unpredictable ways, so rooms will be open with any county-warned storm.