“This is an outdoor warning system,” Fullingim said. “It is intended to warn people who are outside to take shelter.”
People in homes should listen to a NOAA weather radio and/or watch local television broadcasts as well as keeping an eye on the sky.
“The tornado that happened last spring developed in McClain County,” Fullingim said. “I recommend you add McClain County and Cleveland County both to your radio.”
He said it is important that people develop personal plans for action in case of a tornado.
While the city has public shelters at public schools with recreational centers — Whittier, Cleveland, Irving and Little Axe — those buildings may not be safer than most homes.
Furthermore, the fire department must open those shelters during the hours that school is not in operation. The fire department needs an hour to an hour- and-a-half lead time to open a shelter, and often that time is not available before a tornado hits.
“If we are going to provide these shelters, we need to be certain they are open,” Fullingim said.
Other problems are associated with having public storm shelters.
“The last place you want to be in during a tornado is a car,” Fullingim said.
While mobile homes are not safe either, often people will pass other buildings while trying to get to a public shelter. The tornado may arrive before they are in the shelter.
Additionally, there is confusion about which schools are shelters.
“People get the impression all schools are storm shelters,” he said.
People arrive at a school and the doors are locked.
“We’ve had that situation more than once,” Fullingim said.
Social media has contributed to the problem because of public reports. A janitor may let someone into a building and then they put the message out. Suddenly, a school that is not staffed to be a storm shelter is mobbed with people.