The Norman Transcript

News Features

June 8, 2013

Q&A with Oklahoma emergency management director



Q: Do you have a dollar figure in mind?

A: No, I don’t. Right now, we don’t have a baseline of what we’re missing.

We have between 1,700 and 1,800 school buildings in the state of Oklahoma. The school safe rooms that we have funded through the traditional FEMA grant program usually cost between $500,000 and $1 million. If you apply that figure to the number of school buildings, it would take a very long time to try to fund it just that way. And who would you fund first? How would you set priorities of putting a safe room in this school as opposed to that school? It’s impossible to do.

We have to have something broader and different and new and innovative that really gets all of the partners together and says this is a priority. It might be something that goes along with building codes. Many communities have an ordinance that requires a safe room in new school construction, but not every community does. Is that something we need to look at at the state level? We ought to discuss it.

Q: If there were 1,000 schools needing shelters, then you’d be talking about $500 million to $1 billion?

A: Right.

Q: Do you think that’s doable?

A: I think it’s doable.

Q: Should we require all new school buildings to have safe rooms?

A: That’s a good idea to start off with. We also have to have a plan that looks at the old ones as well.

We have to look at more than just the constructions of safe rooms. We have to look at our messaging. We have to look at the procedures that we’re telling our kids. Are they still viable?

Q: Doesn’t Oklahoma have a tradition of leaving these things to local school districts to sort out?

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