Emergency Manager Advises Against Fleeing To Public Shelters

Thursday, May 30th 2013, 10:51 pm
By: News 9

Last week, as an Ef-5 tornado bore down on the metro, hundreds of people headed to buildings that used to be a dedicated public shelters, only to find they were closed. Experts want people to understand, traveling to a public shelter puts you at risk and there are better options.

"When that storm came through, many folks here in Midwest City did what they did in years past. They came to the Reed Center," said Oklahoma County Emergency Manager, David Barnes. "The only problem was it was closed, forcing many of them to ride out the storm in their cars. Luckily the tornado didn't make it this far. "

A week and a half after a deadly tornado ravaged parts of Moore, emergency managers warn about where to seek shelter. Many public shelters have closed because the travel time to them put people at risk of being caught in their car; one of the worst places to be during a tornado.

"Staying in place, in your home, unless you live in a mobile home or a manufactured home, is more often than not percentage wise. Statistically speaking, 98-percent of the time is safer for you," said Barnes.

Complete Coverage: May 2013 Tornado Outbreak

Homes were completely destroyed in the Moore tornado, but people survived it in a small interior room on the lowest level of their homes.

"We've got hurricane straps and different tie-down mechanisms that are included in the codes that help the homes stay together better," said Barnes. "We've got a lot of masonry homes here, masonry vaneere homes. That's an extra layer of protections of rock or stone."

If you are caught outside your home as a tornado approaches, Barnes says avoid seeking shelter in large, open buildings.

"You have to find a substantial shelter. I'm talking about a building that hopefully is rock, stone or masonry," said Barnes.

Emergency managers say the only folks that should be leaving their homes when a tornado happens are people that live in mobile homes or manufactured homes. And he says those escape plans should be in place well in advance.