NORMAN — The debate over public storm shelters reminds us that at one time in Norman, residents actually took shelter inside the cavernous Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. It was believed to be one of the safest structures in the city. Scientists now know that was not a good place to be in a tornado.
Many campus buildings contain basements that serve as safe rooms, but newer buildings don’t have those kinds of shelters. At one time, Norman’s four middle schools, with their earth bermed outside walls, were used as shelters.
Now, in less than two weeks, the city will no longer be operating public shelters. Instead, they encourage residents to make their own plans to shelter in place. The best advice is to have a plan long before the next tornado season.
The problems in opening up schools and other buildings are many: Overcrowding, traffic jams getting there, anxious pets and people. Studies show many people are killed or injured on their way to a shelter.
Like fire exit plans and fire drills, officials encourage families to have tornado drills and know ahead of time where they will take shelter. The lowest part of a house with the fewest windows and doors and the most walls possible between the inside and outside make the best places.