TORNADO: Personal preparedness limits risk and anxiety

Shelter-in-place safest plan during tornado warnings
Public advised against traveling to shelters

Shelter-in-place: that’s the recommendation of Oklahoma City Emergency Management whose advice to people is to shelter-in-place during tornado warnings.

Shelter-in-place means to take shelter where you are, remaining inside your home, workplace or a nearby building. Most homes provide adequate protection from 98 percent of Oklahoma’s tornados. People who live in trailers or manufactured homes should have a plan to seek shelter in a well- constructed building nearby.

An interior hallway or room without exterior windows and doors on the lowest level of your house is typically the safest place to be during a tornado. If you have a bicycle helmet, or any type of helmet, put it on. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes when you take cover. Shoes will protect your feet if you need to walk through debris.

People who live on the upper level of an apartment building should seek shelter in an apartment on the lowest level of the complex.

Your vehicle is one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado. Find a business to shelter in. Never seek shelter underneath a bridge or overpass. If you are stranded outside, lie down in a ditch or low lying area away from your vehicle.

Personal preparedness limits risk and anxiety. The best thing residents can do to protect themselves against the impact of a tornado is install a safe room or storm shelter in their homes. These shelters are designed to give protection from the forces of extreme winds as high as 250 miles per hour.

  • Oklahoma City does not have public storm shelters. Public storm shelters may seem like a good idea, but they often come with more risks than benefits to residents.
  • Oklahoma City has no public buildings that are designed to FEMA guidelines to provide near absolute protection, including protection from an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado.
  • Opening public buildings as storm shelters only gives you a false sense of security and no more protection that a well-built residential structure.
  • Traveling to a public storm shelter could put you at greater risk than if you sheltered in place. Your vehicle is one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado.
  • Tornadoes can happen at night. If sirens wake you at 2 a.m. you likely won’t have enough time to gather your family, load them into a car and drive to a storm shelter. Sheltering in place affords you the quickest and best protection for a no notice event.
  • The City doesn’t identify private buildings that open to the public as storm shelters because these buildings aren’t built to FEMA guidelines and because we have no control over whether they open or not.
  • Oklahoma City has not built public storm shelters because it would be impossible to shelter even a small percentage of the population. If we were to do this, we are required to build enough shelters to hold more than half a million residents.

Having a personal plan and staying informed are the two most critical elements in staying safe during severe weather.



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