News / USA

Safe Rooms Saved Lives in Tornado Disaster

Safe Rooms Save Lives in Tornado Disastersi
X
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

TEXT SIZE - +
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
...
 
🔇
X

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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid