MOORE, Okla. – When Cari Dunkle shows off their brand new safe room, she knows she does not have to worry about the safety of the Head Start children in her care.
On May 20, the staff and children took shelter in an interior room, praying the tornado did not hit them and the doors did not fly open.
“The pressure was pulling on it and I had a tow strap that I tied them down with and we just huddled around the kids and waited till it passed,” Dunkle said.
The Moore Head Start is just four blocks from the 7-Eleven that was destroyed in the tornado, where three people died.
After that close call, their parent company, Crossroads Youth and Family Services in Norman, built a $98,000 tornado safe room. It is complete with FEMA-approved doors that triple lock.
They finished the job a few weeks ago and parents see it as a step forward in protecting their children.
“Honestly, it does take a load off my mind knowing that if any severe storms do come by that my child will be safe inside there,” Russell Kreischer said.
Crossroads wants to put safe rooms in each of their Head Start locations around Cleveland County. It will be a long and expensive process, but the gamble of leaving children in a place without a safe room is a risk they will not take.
“I wouldn’t live in Moore without one,” Dunkle said. “And honestly, I’m a 16 year veteran of public education and you do tornado drills every year and it’s a totally different feeling when you know it’s the real thing.”
The Moore Head Start took a direct hit by the May 31 tornado, causing almost $200,000 worth of damage. Thankfully, no one was inside at the time.
Dunkle says that some of the parents volunteered to paint murals on the blank walls inside the safe room to help make it more inviting and less scary when the kids have to take shelter.
Thanks to grants from Crossroads Youth and Family Services Inc., the facility built a FEMA-approved concrete safe room with three deadbolts on the steel door.
The shelter offers parents who leave their kids at the daycare every day peace of mind.