For more information on Georgia's Severe Weather Preparedness Week, click here.
It started shortly after 9 a.m. today when Hope Sumner, the assistant principal of Sallie Zetterower Elementary School, spoke over the intercom.
"At this time, we will be practicing our tornado drill. So, boys and girls, let's see what you can do," she said.
Right on cue, teachers came out of their classrooms, followed by lines of students. They quietly — as quietly as elementary schoolchildren can be — lined up along the walls of the hallways, dropped to their knees, put their heads on the floor and covered them with their hands.
After everyone was in position, the hallways were quiet enough that even the slightest sound seemed amplified. After a couple of minutes, the drill was over, and the students filed back into their classrooms to resume their regular school day.
Sallie Z. was one of hundreds of schools across Georgia that took part in a statewide tornado drill as part of Severe Weather Preparedness Week.
"Weather in Georgia can be very unpredictable, and our residents have to be ready for everything from tornadoes to ice storms," said Jim Butterworth, the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security, in a news release. "During Severe Weather Preparedness Week, I encourage everyone to take one simple preparedness step each day. Those small steps add up, and even the simplest of preparations can be of tremendous help when severe weather strikes."
Today's focus was tornado safety, when people were encouraged to determine where to take shelter in the event of a tornado warning.
Monday was Family Preparedness/NOAA Weather Radio Day, and people were encouraged to buy these emergency radios and choose an out-of-state friend or family member as someone to check in with should the family be separated during a weather emergency.
Tuesday was focused on thunderstorm safety. Thursday's theme is lightning safety, and Friday will focus on flood safety.
Also Thursday, WTOC-TV will have meteorologists on hand at Walgreens, 516 Northside Drive E., from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. They will be available to program NOAA Weather Radios for free so that the alerts you receive are relevant to your location.
After the drill was over at Sallie Z., Sumner came back on the intercom.
"We are all clear," she said. "What an amazing job you did, boys and girls. Hopefully, we would never have to do that for real. But if we do experience a tornado in the area, you are well-prepared and know what to do. Thank you."
Sumner said in an interview that Sallie Z. teachers don't talk only about being safe at school.
"We also encourage them, just as we practice safety here at school, to go home and talk with their families tonight about that," she said. "What will we do at home, and where will we go at home, so that they're prepared to be safe."
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.