‘If we are going to mandate that our kids must be in school, then we need to mandate that they have somewhere safe to go when there’s a tornado.’

Updated
The ancient response to tornadoes in school remains -- and, in many places -- the current one.
The ancient response to tornadoes in school remains -- and, in many places -- the current one.

A bunch of you who grew up sitting in hallways during tornado warnings wrote in yesterday about Moore, Oklahoma. Neither of the two schools hit by a tornado this week had special “safe rooms” for protection from storms. The students and teachers took shelter the same way they have taken shelter for generations – in hallways and bathrooms, wherever they could, with horrifying and tragic results.

Oklahoma state Representative Joe Dorman grew up sitting in hallways, too, and hoping for the best. Now he is proposing that Oklahoma spend $500 million building safe rooms for schools and other public facilities. As part of the Democratic minority, Dorman will need bipartisan support if he’s to get anywhere with a bill. He tells us:

“There is that Big Brother mentality that says, ‘You can’t tell me what to do. We will never get a mandate that says you have to have a safe room in your home… . [I]f we are going to mandate that our kids must be in school, then we need to mandate that they have somewhere safe to go when there’s a tornado.”

As it happens, the mayor of devastated Moore now says he’ll push for an ordinance requiring safe rooms in new homes. Even as Oklahoma has offered funding for schools to build safe rooms, the state has also resisted having the government regulation needed to require them and the expense of building them.

Oklahoma’s 2013 legislative session is down to its last few days, so Representative Dorman’s proposal might not get considered until next year. For now, the House budget chief tells the local press that they’re considering the $500 million bond issue, along with other responses to the storm. Dorman says that if he can’t get a vote in this session, he’ll ask for a study committee over the summer and hearings to follow. He’s term-limited out of office after next year. “Knowing this is my last stand in the legislature, I’m going to be tenacious about this,” he says. 

After the jump, our segment last night on safe rooms and the Oklahoma town they saved.

In 2011, the tiny town of Tushka, Oklahoma, rode out a tornado in a pair of community safe rooms. The twister destroyed the town’s school. Now they’re rebuilding, they’re including three safe rooms. The superintendent, as you’ll see in the clip, says that was the first question they had about the new facility: Where are the safe rooms going to go? You can read more about Tushka’s safe rooms on our previous post.

 

 

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'If we are going to mandate that our kids must be in school, then we need to mandate that they have somewhere safe to go when there's a tornado.'

Updated