NORMAN — As much of the state debates the merits of putting storm shelters in public school buildings, Norman is closing its public shelters, some of them already in school buildings.
Our firefighters have supported closing the shelters for several seasons and warned that this past storm season would be the final one that the shelters were opened.
Norman City Council members this week adopted an ordinance officially eliminating the city’s shelters at schools and recreation centers. They were not tornado safe by FEMA standards.
There was a time when three of the school district’s four middle schools were utilized as public shelters. However, those schools have changed considerably in design and purpose. (One is now Norman North.) There was even a time when residents went to Oklahoma Memorial Stadium thinking that would protect them in a storm.
Fire Chief James Fullingim said Norman residents should develop a plan to shelter in place. The public shelters create a false sense of security. Additionally, most of the deaths and injuries occur when people are attempting to reach a shelter.
“We don’t have enough places to hold 115,000 people in close proximity to their homes. The last place you want to be is in your car when a storm hits,” Fullingim said.
Memories of the May tornadoes that ripped through the county are still fresh for most of us. Now is the time to make a family shelter plan and even have a drill.