NEW: Norman eliminating city’s public storm shelters, urging residents to prepare

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NORMAN, Okla. – The Norman City Council is giving residents roughly six months to make alternative plans to take shelter when next year’s tornado season begins.

Tuesday the city adopted an ordinance that officially eliminates their public shelters, making them one of the last cities in the metro to do so.

Norman’s Fire Chief James Fullingim thinks the public shelters gives residents a false sense of security.

“There’s been many times this gym has been full and people were left stranded in the parking lot outside,” says Fullingim. ”It’s not that this isn’t a safe building. The situation is, it’s commonly no safer than the home you just left to get here.”

Fullingim says passing this ordinance has been a long time coming, but some residents aren’t too happy to hear the news.

Norman resident Heather Kirby says, “I am not a fan of that actually. If people feel like that is somewhere they can go to be safe then they should leave it like that.”

That was the case for Kirby’s grandmother. This junior high gym at Whittier was always her go-to storm shelter.

“My grandmother lives really close to Alcott school and Whittier,” says Kirby. “Those were places that she was able to go but now she isn’t going to be able to do that.”

The city council’s decision has her family coming up with a plan b and city officials want the rest of Norman to follow her lead.

If that means installing a shelter in your home then now is the time to call.

Garett Howerton with Thunderground Storm Shelters says, “Definitely expecting some calls from Norman now once the word gets out.”

Howerton thinks when people panic during a storm it’s because of poor planning.

“You wait until the last minute and in April and May you call and want it tomorrow,” says Howerton. “The likelihood of that happening is slim to none.”

Chief Fullingim says, “6 months is ample time, actually 6 hours is ample time to determine what your family is going to do to protect themselves.”

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