The Norman Transcript

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June 18, 2013

Norman fire chief says public storm facilities don’t offer adequate protection

NORMAN — Oklahomans are always going to need a safe place to take cover when severe weather hits, as it so often does during the spring and summer months, but officials have found many problems tied to public shelters.

While there are currently several public shelters in Norman, residents should not count on those to keep safe — at least not for long.

The plan is to cease operation of all community shelters by June 30, Norman Fire Chief James Fullingim said because those public shelter facilities do not provide adequate protection against strong winds and many are too far away when you need them.

“I can’t stress enough that these facilities are not designed to withstand high winds,” Fullingim said. “If you’re leaving a traditionally built home, you’re putting yourself at risk that’s actually no safer than the place you just left.”

There also are plenty of other problems of safety linked to the public shelters.

Overcrowding at public shelters is one of those problems. Sometimes there are more people seeking shelter in buildings than the amount of space available, which can lead to some people being left outside, Fullingim said.

As for pets taking your pets to the public shelter? Bad idea.

Fullingim said one of the rules is pets are not allowed at storm shelters.

“One of the issues we deal with is anxiety of the animals,” he said. “A lot of times they won’t be friendly to each other and won’t be friendly to people.”

The fire chief said he’s not saying all pets are mean, but in situations where the animals are anxious, they may become aggressive. Also, some people are afraid of animals and some animals are afraid of people, he said.

Either way, taking your animal to a shelter full of strangers who also may be trying to smuggle their pets in, all while anxiety and stress is high, could be trouble waiting to happen.

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