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News Release


FOR RELEASE September 26, 2013 10:30 am

Contact: Mark Nestlen (405) 850-9571



More than 506,000 Students, Teachers and Staff Unprotected from Tornadoes

Statewide Public School Survey Shows the need for Storm Shelter Construction in Schools


OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 26, 2013) A statewide survey of public schools released today by Rep. Joe Dorman shows that more than 506,000 students, teachers and staff are not protected from severe weather like the tornadoes that destroyed Moore schools on May 20th, killing seven children at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

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

Dorman commissioned the survey in order to have as much knowledge and data as possible for the interim school storm shelter study being conducted by the legislature.  The committee will meet on Oct. 31st.

The survey’s report, State of Storm Shelters in Oklahoma Public Schools, did show that 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.  

The report identified four main consensus points among local school superintendents:

1. Schools that have storm shelters are glad they have them

2. There is a great need for storm shelters in schools

3. Funding for storm shelter construction at the local level is difficult

4. There is a desire to incorporate the construction of storm shelters into planned public school construction plans.


The survey inquired as to the five-year new construction and remodeling plans that schools are already considering. The report found that if Oklahoma schools did nothing more than incorporate storm shelter construction into their planned construction over the next five years, 33% of the schools without shelters would join the ranks of those with shelters, increasing the number of schools with a shelter to 1,065 (59% of Oklahoma public schools).

The survey results were also analyzed by SAFE Design Group, a specialized Architectural and Engineering firm who’s leadership has been responsible for much of the grant funding, design, and construction of safe rooms in Missouri after the Joplin 2011 tornado.  The SAFE Design Group has secured more than $160 million in FEMA grants for schools, protecting more than 125,000 people.  Based on the survey results, SAFE Design Group believes the most cost effective way to ensure every Oklahoma public school has a storm shelter is via new construction.  “Our rule of thumb is that incorporating the construction of a safe room into a multi-purpose construction project like a gym, cafeteria or band room will cost approximately 15 percent over typical construction cost,” said Brian Orr of the SAFE Design Group.

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

Coreslab Structures donated the resources to collect the survey data.  Bar None Consulting collected the data from July 18 to September 12, 2013.  All 517 school districts from all 77 counties, representing 1,804 schools, responded to the survey. Bar None Consulting and the Safe Design Group analyzed the data for the report.


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