UPDATE: Piedmont to consider mandatory school shelters

PIEDMONT, Okla. — The Piedmont Planning Commission will consider a new city ordinance Monday night that will require storm shelters to be built inside all new municipal buildings and public schools that are constructed after January 1, 2014.

The ordinance is designed to provide shelter to the occupants of the city building or school.  Those shelters will not be designated as a “public shelter.”

However Planning Commissioner Eric Berger says allowing the public to use those shelters will be discussed at the Planning Commission Meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Piedmont Civic Center.

“I thought that perhaps we have to do it at the municipal level, because if they’re not going to mandate it at the state level, then we’re left to fend for ourselves,” he said.

Currently, the town’s middle school has underground locker rooms that serve as a storm shelter.

Also, Piedmont Intermediate school already has four classrooms that double as shelters.  They are surrounded by steel and concrete and can hold 600 people.

“It lets us know that our kids at this building do have somewhere safe to go,” Piedmont Schools Superintendent James White said Monday.  “I know it’s a relief for many of our parents and also for our teachers that care about the safety of our kids.”

Berger says the Moore tornado on May 20th inspired the shelter ordinance idea.

“It’s a no brainer,” he said.  “It’s like being in California.  You build an earthquake proof building if you’re in California and we need to provide tornado shelters here in Oklahoma.”

If the Planning Commission approves the ordinance, it will be up for an eventual vote by the City Council.