Jefferson Lab Survey Results: From the March 12 Tornado Drill

Jefferson Lab Survey Results: From the March 12 Tornado Drill

On March 12 many members of the Jefferson Lab community participated in the annual statewide Tornado Drill. Afterward, drill participants were asked to complete a short Tornado Preparedness and Response Awareness Survey. This brief shares those results with you.

Thanks to the 94 non-supervisors and 36 supervisors of the Jefferson Lab community who completed the survey. Here is what we learned:

  • 80 percent of the participants knew in advance that the drill would take place on March 12 at 9:45 a.m.
  • 100 percent of the participants who completed the survey received one or more types of notification announcing the drill.
  • 75 percent of the participants reported that while at work, they learn about inclement or threatening weather from their JLab email.
  • 82 percent of the participants recognized the lab's outdoor Tornado Siren as the Tornado Warning to "Take Cover."
  • 73 percent of the participants recognized the tone of the siren and knew to take cover.
  • 88 percent of the participants felt their "Take Cover" location was adequate.
  • 58 percent of the participants did not seek out or contact their supervisor for accountability purposes after the drill.
  • 74 percent of the participants did not witness any confusion during the drill.
  • 40 percent of the participants received a verbal notification of the "All Clear" message at the end of the drill.
  • 63 percent of the participants were not accounted for by their supervisors or a designee.


Problem Areas Needing an Explanation and/or Action:

Problem:         Notifications were not consistent; didn't reach all areas.

Explanation: There were a variety of comments regarding reception and time lag in notification messaging. The lab currently uses the tornado siren and site-wide-alert emails and pages to notify the lab of a tornado or tornado warning. The tornado siren is intended to notify people working outdoors to Take Cover. 

To improve notification and All Clear messaging, the lab is in the process of activating a public announcement feature on the new Voice of IP (Cisco) phones. A test of this system has been conducted in Building 28, the Support Service Center. With this new tool, Emergency Management and emergency communicators will be able to broadcast live, audible messages to all Cisco phones. These messages will be audible in offices, work centers and conference rooms with the VoIP phones. This will provide live, audible messages and won't require recipients to check email.

Nearly all phones at the lab will be replaced with the Voice over IP phones. A test of this new capability is being planned for this summer. Information will be provided to the lab community in advance of the test. For more information visit:

Eventually we also anticipate being able to scroll emergency messages over the VoIP phone screens.

Problem:         The drill provided too much information (advance notice of date and time of drill) to really gauge the effectiveness of the Tornado procedure.

Explanation: Future Tornado drills conducted at JLab will be unannounced, like unannounced Fire Drills.

Problem:         Personnel did not know where to take cover and many claim the Emergency Floor plans need to be reviewed.

Action:      Emergency Manager to put a few key players together and review the floor plans.  CATS # MOA-2013-34-01

Important Facts To Help Clarify Concerns Noted On The Survey

  • The Outdoor Warning Siren is designed to alert individuals who are outside working or those in transit between buildings.
  • It is an unintended benefit if personnel can hear the siren from within a structure. The primary purpose of the Outdoor Warning Siren is to notify individuals who are outdoors to take cover, immediately. You can listen to the siren by visiting the ES&H Manual, Chapter 3510 Appendix T3 Tornado Response Procedure at:
  • Opening or closing windows is absolutely useless, a waste of time and can be dangerous. If a tornado hits your location, it will blast the windows open anyway.
  • Close only the doors that are at your take cover location.
  • If in a vehicle, leave the vehicle for a sturdy building or drive out of the tornado's path. If time does not allow to get to a sturdy building or to get away, get out of the vehicle and lie flat in a low spot as far from the road as possible. Cover your head with your arms.
  • The safest room to take cover is an underground location or a basement. If a basement isn't available, go to the lowest, interior level possible; interior bathrooms, storage rooms, conference rooms or closets without windows are the best choices.
  • In a real tornado warning the CEBAF tunnel would immediately be dropped to restricted access and personnel would be able to enter through North and South access stairwells to take emergency shelter.
  • Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes, so cover your head by getting under a stairwell, desk or work bench. If nothing is available crouch down and cover your head with your arms.
  • Stay off elevators.
  • Weather radios are maintained by the area Safety Warden.

A tornado is capable of taking out the power to our phone lines or the power that runs to them. We need to be alert of the weather around us and to help those around us take the proper actions. Do not assume there is no tornado because the siren has not been activated. Things can happen fast; you need to be prepared to get to the safest place as quickly as possible. Help yourself and others by downloading weather aps to your phones or weather links on your emails. Take the time to read and understand all Jefferson Lab emergency related posters and emails that are sent out.

References used:

The NOAA Online Tornado FAQ

JLab ES&H Manual, Chapter 3510 Appendix T3 Tornado Response Procedure