Changes in the current FEMA shelter policy was one of the items addressed by members of the Neosho Board of Education during the regular July meeting on Monday.

Changes in the current FEMA shelter policy was one of the items addressed by members of the Neosho Board of Education during the regular July meeting on Monday.
FEMA shelters are at Neosho High School, Carver Elementary School, and at South Elementary. Doors open automatically when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning. 24-hour surveillance is provided at each of the shelters. Revision of the current FEMA shelter policy was prompted by the May 19 tornado that struck Neosho and caused widespread damage. The Friday afternoon storm struck after school hours and prompted a number of local residents to seek shelter.  
The board is considering changing policy to open the FEMA shelters when a tornado watch is issued to provide residents more time to seek shelter.  If so, however, the question is whether or not the shelters should be manned by staff members.  Other options include volunteers who would serve during severe weather or to leave the facilities unmanned.
Neosho Superintendent of Schools Dan Decker, said,  "You can't have a policy if there's no one there to enforce it."
"When an event (weather) ends, who is there to see that everyone leaves?" board member Jonathon Russell asked.
Board member Brett Day stated, "Technology is a better solution. If we have cameras and monitors at the shelters, if we do catch someone tearing it up, there is legal action we can take. Actions have consequences."
Decker said, "If we assign people to cover the shelters, I think we would want to pay them a stipend. We can designate a rotation order, take turns and let them work out a schedule."
Another issue is making sure the public understands what school buildings have public FEMA shelters and which do not.  
"We must be specific about which buildings," Day said. "We have a new building opening up (with a storm shelter) and it is not open to the public."
The new Neosho Junior High School was constructed with an on site storm shelter but since it was not paid for with FEMA grant money, it is not available to the public.
Russell suggested that steps be taken to make certain the public knows where to shelter in the event of severe weather.
"We need signage out there to direct them to the right building."
Carver Elementary, which does have a FEMA shelter, is adjacent to the junior high school.  Russell suggested signage in the lobby of the new school to indicate although it is not a public shelter, there is one located at Carver.
Public safety, however, is the primary issue.
"I think you've got to get the people inside," Day said. "And I think technology will help us there."
Other issues included clarification about animals being brought to the shelter.  FEMA regulations require that no pets are brought into the shelter.  Service animals are an exception, however, but Board Member Kim Wood said, "We need to put something abut no pets. Can we put something about requiring documentation from a doctor or in a file who has service animals?"
Wood suggested clarification to the no pet policy is necessary to prevent anyone bringing a comfort animal with them when they seek shelter.
The board asked Public Relations Director Meagan Spangler to provide information about how the policy has been presented to the public and how the changes will be made public.
"We had the cards available, in English and also in Spanish," Spangler told the board. "We kept it as simple as possible.  We currently have the information online. The cards have been available at the schools and were sent home. Right, now the information is on the website and the app. We can do push notifications. We just need to keep the policy the same once we get that information out there."
Board members will continue to review the FEMA shelter policies from other districts including Nixa and Wentzville.  After considering the information and the local situation, they will put together a policy designed for the utmost safety of students, school personnel, and members of the community.
Details of the changes will be shared when they are available.