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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs