The Norman Transcript

Local news

July 13, 2013

Public Safety Committee talks storm shelters and precautions

NORMAN — Public storm shelters and hospital storm precautions were heavily discussed during the Citizens Public Safety Oversight Committee meeting on Thursday.

Shane Cohea, manager of safety services and emergency preparedness for Norman Regional Hospital led discussion and answered questions from board members about topics relating to hospital safety in the event of a storm.

Cohea said many of the safety plans or “best practices” were learned from the hospital in Joplin that took a direct hit several years ago. Placing patients in certain areas of the building prevented loss of life when the tornado ravaged the building in Joplin.

Those same practices were put in place two years prior to the May 20 tornado that hit Moore, which helped prevent the loss of life once again, he said. Maps throughout the facility also are color coded indicating the safest places for patients and staff to take cover in the event of a storm.

One problem the hospitals tend to constantly run into though is when the public tries to seek shelter inside of the facility.

Cohea said during the May 31 storm many sought shelter at Norman Regional Hospital’s Porter campus. There were people shoulder to shoulder in the hallways throughout the first floor, the lobby was completely full and there were about 30 people near the south entrance, he said.

“It was just a mess, a disaster. We have yet to find a good solution,” he said.

If a storm were to hit the area, it would likely make it more difficult for hospital staff to work with all of the people crowded into the building. Also, more people are putting themselves in more danger by going to the hospital than seeking shelter in their own homes, Cohea said.

The hospitals are not built to comply with FEMA requirements in the event of a tornado.

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