The Norman Transcript

News Features

June 18, 2013

Schools need better shelters during storms

(Continued)

NORMAN —

In accordance with Edwards’ recommendations, firsthand accounts indicate students at Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools were moved to the most enclosed areas of their schools — hallways and bathrooms — and crouched down against walls.

In her interview with an Oklahoma City newspaper reporter, Plaza Towers second-grade teacher Shelly Calvert said students — including the third-grade class that tragically suffered fatalities — were in the gym for class activities the afternoon of May 20 and were moved to the hallways immediately when warnings were issued.

Calvert’s account indicated that students were crouched against the wall according to protocol and said the wall collapsed when a south-facing door and the roof overhead was ripped off.

“There is no guaranteed ‘safe place’ in a tornado,” Edwards writes. “But ideally the lowest possible level is the safest ... to determine structural strength of upper floors, professional architectural engineers with wind engineering experience must be consulted.”

Moore Superintendent Susan Pierce said this type of evaluation was standard for the district, with professionals identifying the safest parts of schools for sheltering and site administrators running drills multiple times a year to ensure fast response time.

“I found that yearround preparation was common, as was professional review,” Hoekstra said. “My greatest concern once the research was over was for local forecasting offices to reach out and develop stronger relationships with schools to produce the best plans — superintendents shouldn’t be expected to be authorities or experts on weather.”

Ultimately, Hoekstra’s and Edwards’ expert opinions on ideal school storm procedures reached similar conclusions.

“Builders can line with concrete enough interior rooms in the school to create a series of safe rooms to hold students, safe rooms aren’t just for houses,” Edwards writes. “They can also be retrofitted into existing facilities, but that is usually much costlier than building them in new construction ... such measures won’t come cheap — but can ultimately save lives.”

“There are few tornado shelters for schools in the Oklahoma area and even fewer below-ground shelters,” Hoekstra said. “Sheltering is definitely something that schools need to change.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
News Features
  • March Against Monsanto Protesters rally against agro giant Monsanto

    OKLAHOMA CITY — Rain did not deter protesters at the March Against Monsanto in Bricktown on Saturday evening. A button on one man’s shirt was typical of the attitude of many of the marchers, “I’m one of those people,” it read....

    May 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Moore Med Cent Groundbreaking Community still grieving but looking toward future, new beginnings

    MOORE — One year after an EF-5 tornado devastated a core area of Moore that included the Moore Medical Center, the community gathered on the site of the former hospital to reflect and remember those who were lost....

    May 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Couple mourns loss of young lives

    When the tornado hit, Dennis and Wilma Chastain were holding hands. On May 20, 2013, the couple left their home in south Oklahoma City in Green Briar Estates near Westmoore High School around 2 p.m. to make it to a 2:30 appointment near ...

    May 20, 2014

  • Interfaith group invites women to join

    Women of a variety of faiths brought prayers and dinner and shared peaceful dialogue recently at a Norman home. Malaka Elyazgi’s prayer sounded like a song tripping off her lips in her native tongue. The translation was equally poetic....

    April 28, 2014

  • DUal-state advance Tough field awaits Southmoore at dual state

    Southmoore’s history at Dual State is a short read. The totality of it is a first-round loss to eventual runner-up Muskogee by one point in last year’s tournament.

    February 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Myths about obesity

    The obesity epidemic is among the most critical health issues facing the United States. Although it has generated a lot of attention and calls for solutions, it also has served up a super-sized portion of myths and misunderstandings....

    December 28, 2013

  • How to tame an out-of-control kid

    Edith, a retired Capitol Hill staffer from Washington, was at the end of her rope last year over the mayhem her 5-year-old great-grandson Wayne was causing at preschool. “I was on speed dial” at the school, says Edith, who is raising two ...

    December 28, 2013

  • Experts decry ‘resolution dependency’

    One of the country’s best-known fitness center chains is launching an initiative to wean people from what it calls an over-dependence on New Year’s resolutions....

    December 26, 2013

  • The 12 annoying songs of Christmas

    It’s that time of year, when Christmas songs fill shops, restaurants and your home. While anything on repeat can drive you mad, these 12 tunes are some of the most annoying....

    December 8, 2013

  • Caring for a cut Christmas tree

    Cut Christmas trees must be watered and kept hydrated to last through the holidays and to prevent them from becoming fire hazards. This includes small tabletop trees....

    December 8, 2013