NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
The case for school tornado shelters.
Unlike other recent events where children have died too soon, the case for storm shelters in schools does not evoke the same response as infringing on anyone’s constitutional rights.
To send a child to school in an area where according to NOAA, in the last decade there have been 16 recorded deadly tornadoes, and not having the ability to shield that child from possible death or crippling injury, could be considered as negligent or even possibly criminal.
In the past, some schools have spent millions of dollars on infrastructure or causes, gymnasiums, auditoriums, on media labs, on football stadiums, on travel, but there is a primordial human instinct in us that says it wont happen to me, so collectively we are loath to embrace the concept that though the tornado may miss us this time, statistically every six years or so there will be a few dozen people killed or injured and millions and millions in damages.
It is not rocket science, a safe economical storm shelter capable of keeping the students secure is not a major technical or scientific breakthrough. Any well educated architect or design engineer can design a viable storm shelter. However to be innovative, in Oklahoma we can go one step further. Imagine if the powers that be were to think outside the box and hold a worldwide competition for the best school tornado shelter based on safety, costs and public acceptance. We do not need the Cadillac version but we need a shelter that meets and exceeds existing standards. The response would be overwhelming. There will be groups from all over the world vying for recognition that would come with such an award. Above all they would do the design for free. This is not a new concept.
This has been done before, remember the Oklahoma bombing memorial. There were over 600 designs submitted from all over the globe. It did not cost a dime. The storm shelter is the moral equivalent of a life jacket, it makes a difference when it is needed, it makes the difference between life and death. We can continue to play Russian roulette with mother nature every six years or we can solve the problem head-on and make the right choices by making our children safe at school.