"I think there's a viewpoint that that's a personal determination to make," Rohr said.
About 7,500 homes were damaged or destroyed in the May 2011 Joplin tornado. Rohr said 84 percent of homes have been rebuilt, fixed or have permits pending. While the city doesn't require safe rooms, it recommends that people "shelter in place" in the event of a storm — either in a basement, an interior closet or a safe room — rather than leaving to try to make it to one of several community storm shelters being built at Joplin schools.
Some local governments have taken a partial step toward a residential storm shelter mandate. A Wichita, Kan., ordinance adopted in 1994 requires storm shelters in existing mobile home parks with at least 20 homes and in new parks with at least 10 mobile homes. A 2000 ordinance adopted in Wichita's home of Sedgwick County also required storm shelters for all new mobile home parks with space for at least 10 homes.
Alabama is the only state that requires new schools to be built with safe rooms, according to the National Storm Shelter Association. But similar mandates could come in the future. Kiesling said a draft of the 2015 update for the International Building Code calls for new schools to have storm-safe areas. Many states and cities incorporate those building standards into their own laws.
Although several schools in the Oklahoma City area already have safe rooms, the two elementary schools that were destroyed by Monday's tornado did not have them. Seven children died in one of those schools.
Yet the question remains. If the government were to mandate safe rooms in schools or homes, would people actually use them?
With a tornado visibly approaching their Moore home, 20-year-old Maritza Marin fled by vehicle with her mother, father and a younger sister. They drove several blocks away, then returned to see a neighbor's red car dumped onto what once was her bedroom. Marin said their home had no storm shelter. She likes the mayor's proposed requirement, but she's not sure she would use a storm shelter if she again found herself facing a tornado.
"I think it would be good to have a shelter, but if you can run away from one, it's better," Marin said.