Shelter survey: 500K Oklahoma students without shelter at school for storms

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The statewide survey on shelters in Oklahoma schools shows more than 500,000 students and educators do not have a safe place to go at school during severe weather.

Moore Plaza Towers Elementary school

Moore Plaza Towers Elementary School

Rep. Joe Dorman commissioned the survey after the Moore tornado hit Briarwood Elementary and Plaza Towers Elementary, killing seven students May 20.

He released the survey findings Thursday morning.

PHOTOS: Moore before and after the May 20 tornado

The report showed:

- 695 schools (38.5% of Oklahoma public schools) do have some type of shelter area.

- The remaining 1,109 schools have no refuge or safe area of any kind (61.5% of Oklahoma public schools).  

- Of the 695 schools that have a shelter area, only 271 schools (15% of Oklahoma public schools) have a storm shelter that is designed to withstand 250 mph winds.  

MAP: Statewide school storm shelter locations

“It is absolutely unacceptable that Oklahoma lawmakers have failed to address the safety of students and teachers in our public schools,” Rep. Dorman said. “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.”

Briarwood Elementary 4 Classroom

Moore Briarwood Elementary School

MORE: Complete coverage of building safer schools in Oklahoma

The SAFE Design group also analyzed the results.

They are based out of Joplin, Missouri and helped the town rebuild their schools after their devastating tornado in 2011.

Using FEMA formulas, the SAFE Design Group calculated it would cost between $740 million and $880 million to construct saferooms for the 1,109 public schools identified in the survey that currently have no shelter or refuge area at all.

Rep. Dorman said he asked for the survey to get more information for the interim school storm shelter study the legislature is conducting.

That committee will meet Oct. 31.

MAP: Schools shelters in Oklahoma City metro

The information in the survey is also going to be used as part of the “Shelter Oklahoma Schools” initiative.

That group is trying to collect 155,000 signatures on a petition to get a measure on the statewide ballot.

If they get the required signatures, voters will decide whether or not to approve an amendment to our state constitution which would fund safe rooms for Oklahoma schools.

Through a statewide survey, backed by Representative Joe Dorman, more than 1,109 of the 1,800 schools in the state have no refuge or safe area of any kind.

"This is something every parent should want for their student, their child, their niece, their nephew," Dani Legg said.

Danni Legg lost her son, nine-year-old Christopher to the May 20th tornado that ripped through Moore. He was one of the seven kids who died at Plaza Towers Elementary.

Legg stands by Representative Dorman.

"Over 500,000 Oklahomans, students, faculty, staff are unprotected in case of a storm such as a tornado," said Dorman.

Dorman has been working with Safe Design Group, a firm of engineers out of Joplin Missouri to help with the survey.

The group helped Joplin Schools rebuild after their devastating tornado in 2011.

Even with help and research, putting shelters in schools is easier said than done, especially when money comes into play.

"Many of these school districts are tapped out on their local funding, they can't afford it," said Dorman.

That's where the "Shelter Oklahoma Schools" initiative comes in, a group that’s working to collect 155,000 signatures on a petition to get a measure on the statewide ballot, leaving the decision in the hands of the voters.

With FEMA formulas, Safe Design Group said it would cost between $740-880 Million to construct safe rooms for the 1, 109 public schools who don’t have any sort of shelter in place.

Representative Dorman said they will have a booth at the Barons game Friday night, collecting registered voter signatures for the “Shelter Oklahoma Schools” initiative.

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