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

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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid