A North Texas school has become the first in the state to be certified by the National Weather Service as "StormReady."
Timber Creek High School in Keller ISD earned the designation earlier this year after undergoing an extensive application and planning process.
"We're the only school in the State of Texas that has earned that certification," said Gusti Ratliff, an assistant principal at Timber Creek who led the application process.
Ratliff said they had an existing storm-preparedness plan, but another administrator who is a part-time stormchaser learned about the NWS certification and thought it would be a good chance to reevaluate the school's severe weather preparations.
"It's all about being prepared," she said.
The application didn't cost anything, but it did require substantial work over a year. They closely examined the school with a National Weather Service employee to identify shelter locations and unsafe areas, and they even analyzed security camera footage of evacuation drills to optimize routes.
"The stairs would bottleneck, so if we saw something bottlenecking, we had to think of an alternative way to get out that was faster," said Ratliff.
Ratliff said they are now about to get students to shelter in four minutes flat, and they are continuing to seek ways to improve the process. Plans now call for severe weather day preparation to start two days before an anticipated event, alerting parents and allowing teachers to remind students about what would happen in the event of an emergency.
Timber Creek has never been hit by a tornado, but like all schools in North Texas, it's certainly at risk. It's located in the middle of a neighborhood that has experienced storms in the past, including tornadic activity last March that knocked down fences, sent trampolines flying and damaged homes.
"We're not going to be the school that says we weren't expecting it," said Ratliff.