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More Than Half Of Oklahoma Schools Do Not Have Storm Shelters

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The study shows that 1,109 Oklahoma schools out of 1,804 do not have a storm shelter. That's more than 61 percent. The study shows that 1,109 Oklahoma schools out of 1,804 do not have a storm shelter. That's more than 61 percent.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Startling statistics are out on the state of storm shelters in Oklahoma. Researchers say well over half of Oklahoma public schools do not have any storm shelters. That's more than 506,000 students, teachers and staff uncovered during a tornado.

State Rep. Joe Dorman released the numbers Thursday morning with input from all 517 school districts. Before now, Dorman says there has never been a complete study on storm shelters in Oklahoma.

9/26/2013 Related Story: Report Says Thousands Of Oklahoma Students, Teachers Unprotected From Tornadoes

Four months after one of deadliest tornado seasons in Oklahoma, storm shelters in schools remain a hot topic. Dorman held a news conference to reveal findings of a recent survey of school shelters.

"The glaring numbers we saw especially, in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas show how few schools are protected from tornados," Dorman said.

The study shows that 1,109 Oklahoma schools out of 1,804 do not have a storm shelter. That's more than 61 percent.

"When you look at that kind of a number, that's a significant amount of our population that is required by law to be in those locations everyday but are not protected," said Mark Nestlen of Bar None Consulting, who started compiling the study in July.

The report shows only 695 schools have a shelter, and of that, only 271 are designed to withstand winds at 250 miles per hour.

Danni Legg said she had to hear the numbers for herself. Legg lost her 9-year-old son Christopher on May 20 as he was taking shelter inside Plaza Towers Elementary School.

"Being in the wrong place of the school is what killed him, the firewall that fell on him," Legg said. "The lack of storm shelters in our schools is staggering to me, I grew up thinking schools were the most safe places to be."

Using FEMA formulas, researchers with SAFE Design Group estimate it will cost between $740 million to $880 million to put shelters in every Oklahoma school that needs one.

"I think we need to get the funding in place as quickly as possible," said Dorman. "We need to help schools begin their construction immediately and get those shelters in the schools before we see another tragedy."

Take Shelter Oklahoma has a shelters proposal that states a $500-million bond issue, funded through the franchise tax, would cover the costs of statewide shelters in all schools. The petition needs more than 150,000 signatures by December 16.

"I have two other children who were pulled from the rubble that day, and I got to keep them safe," said Legg. "The most important thing to us is that our surviving children have to feel safe, and none of us do."

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