News / USA

Safe Rooms Saved Lives in Tornado Disaster

Safe Rooms Save Lives in Tornado Disastersi
May 23, 2013 12:22 AM
The scattered ruins of Moore, Oklahoma - a town devastated for the third time in 14 years by a tornado (a violent wind accompanied by a funnel-shaped cloud) are a grim reminder that in America’s so-called "tornado alley," current building codes can’t do much to prevent property destruction and loss of life, especially when a powerful twister cuts through town. But, as VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the death toll can be dramatically reduced when people take shelter in underground bunkers and hardened safe-rooms.
Safe Rooms Save Lives in Tornado Disasters
Rosanne Skirble
The scattered ruins of Moore, Oklahoma, a town devastated for the fourth time in 14 years by a major tornado, are a grim reminder that current building codes can’t do much to prevent property destruction and loss of life, especially when a powerful twister cuts through town.

But the death toll can be dramatically reduced when people take shelter in underground storm bunkers and hardened safe-rooms.

The tornado that carved a path of destruction through Moore took 24 lives. Its winds were clocked at 400 kilometers per hour. With only 15 minutes’ warning, residents fled town or took refuge in the sturdiest corners of their homes or other buildings.

The luckiest were able to climb into underground shelters or move to steel-and-concrete modules in their buildings called safe rooms.  

Safe Rooms Saved Lives During Tornado
Safe Rooms Saved Lives During Tornadoi
|| 0:00:00

In Moore and other nearby towns, those rooms saved lives. But at two schools destroyed by Monday's tornado, no such shelter was available. Leslie Chapman Henderson is CEO of a non-profit group called the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.  She's an advocate for tornado safe rooms.
“The safe room is an interior room of the home that that has been reinforced and tested and certified to withstand high wind and debris impact of the type that  we’ve just seen happening in Moore, Oklahoma.  In fact, we’ve already heard of families and stories of survival of people who were in safe rooms, either above or below ground,” she said.  

A safe room can be retrofitted into a closet, bathroom, laundry room or garage, or set below ground.
Moore resident Skye Strouhal watched the tornado’s funnel-shaped cloud approaching and ran with a friend to a neighbor’s underground shelter with minutes to spare.

“It was getting a little too scary for me and I followed him back there into that backyard and we tried to open that cellar and it was locked by a chain, and then they let us in and shortly after that (the storm) was on top of us,” Strouhal said.

Better storm forecasts give people like Strouhal more time to react. But they need someplace safe to go. Buildings can be built to resist strong winds, but not like those in the F-5 tornado that touched down in Moore. Home safety advocate Chapman Henderson says even the building codes that do exist are not widely adopted or enforced.  

“There are places at the EF-0, 1 and 2 level where a building code can make a difference. But what we really need here is a combination of both the code and the safe room.”
Most of the ruined structures in Moore had neither. Only one in ten homes in town have tornado safe rooms.  

Moore is located in a central U.S. region called tornado alley where these storms are frequent.  This is the fourth severe tornado in fourteen years, the second with winds of 400 kilometers per hour, to cut similar swaths through town.

But Chapman Henderson says memories fade.  Neither of the two elementary schools demolished this week had safe rooms, which she says could have saved the seven children who died at one of the schools.

“I think we need to focus on our schools, and we need to set a minimum standard of always having a safe room option for students. What we’ve learned here tragically is that is the most important investment that we can make,” Chapman Henderson said.
As its residents prepare to rebuild, Moore’s mayor is pushing for an ordinance to make safe rooms mandatory in all new construction. Similar proposals were made following each of the previous tornado strikes, but none were adopted.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs