TULSA, Okla. — Springtime in Oklahoma means families should start making storm preps in case of severe weather. In many areas, that could mean getting ready to go to public shelters, which are having to adjust their plans to keep people from potentially spreading coronavirus while they’re inside.
Emergency managers say the safest option in a tornado warning would be to hunker down where you are, but getting to a shelter before the storm hits is the best way to keep yourself and your family safe.
Social distancing could now clash with hiding in a communal storm shelter, like the one at Kellyville Public Schools. The Kellyville Fire Department will be able to let people in to the shelter at the school, but Superintendent Joe Pierce has instructed them to ask those seeking shelter to stay as far apart from each other as possible while they’re inside.
“In the event that we did have to let the public in there, the next day we would probably have some sort of cleaning regimen that would take place,” Pierce said. “We would isolate that part of the building until we could get in and give it an appropriate sanitizing.”
In areas like Tulsa County, there are no official public shelters. Some buildings that usually let people in to escape the storm, like the Equality Center, won’t be able to do so this year.
Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Joe Kralicek says while families are together at home away from work and school, they should be setting some time aside to make severe weather plans.
"People need to be prepared to respond to severe weather and to be prepared to take their shelter, same as they would any other year,” Kralicek said. "What we really recommend people do is develop a plan on how they’re going to shelter in place against a tornado, and weigh their risk carefully. Which one is the more imminent threat at that moment - COVID or a tornadic event?”
Kralicek says the plan should be getting somewhere safe in the home, or as close by as possible.
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