The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

September 26, 2013

Most public schools don't have a safe storm refuge area, survey finds

OKLAHOMA CITY — More than 60 percent of the public schools in Oklahoma have no refuge or safe area in place to withstand a violent tornado, according to a survey released Thursday by proponents of a ballot measure to place storm shelters in schools.

The survey of all 517 school districts in Oklahoma shows more than 1,100 schools, or 61.5 percent, have no shelter or safe area, said state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, who is pushing a ballot initiative for a $500 million bond issue to help schools pay for storm shelters or safe rooms.

Conducted by Bar None Consulting over a two-month period from July to September, the survey was paid for by Coreslab Structures, a company that manufactures precast concrete products with two plants in Oklahoma.

The survey indicates that of the 695 Oklahoma public schools with a shelter area, fewer than half of those are designed to withstand winds of more than 250 mph, Dorman said.

Dorman said he believes it’s “absolutely unacceptable” the Oklahoma Legislature hasn’t pushed to put more storm shelters in public schools. He said his survey suggests more than 506,000 students, teachers and staff would not be adequately prepared for the kind of tornado that rumbled through Moore on May 20 and smashed into Plaza Towers Elementary School, killing seven children there.

“It is reprehensible to think that every day the state fails to act on placing storm shelters in public schools, we put the lives of more than a half a million children, teachers and school staff in peril,” Dorman said.

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