Storm Shelter Registration Can Speed Up Search And Rescue

Thursday, April 16th 2015, 6:52 pm
By: Emory Bryan

First responders in Tulsa know there are thousands of storm shelters and more being installed every day, but they don't know where to find all of them, so a new effort is happening now to gather that information.

A storm shelter registration process helps firefighters know where to search and where they don't have to search after a tornado.

It takes a lot of steps to install a storm shelter, and not all of them are part of building the actual shelter. The first step is usually a building permit, and a registration with first responders.

"But part of that application is where in the home that shelter is going,” Joshua King of Atlas Safe Rooms said. “Is it on the northeast corner, a back patio, a storage building?"

In the debris from a tornado, it's sometimes hard to tell much from just an address. That's why Tulsa and most fire departments want a specific GPS location for shelters.

"It is helpful, because if I show up at your house and it's flattened and I know you have a storm shelter, I can pull up the coordinates,” Tulsa Fire Department Capt. Stan May said. “[We can] dig in this area and get you up and your family to the help you need, to safety, get you on your way and go to the people who are harder to find."

New shelters are mapped through the permit process, but many more are not mapped because they were built before that started.

In the City of Tulsa, there are only 1,118 shelters on first responders maps. The permit for a new shelter and automatic registration is $85, but existing shelters can be registered for free.

The fire department wants the information to speed up search and rescue.

“We're actually going to get those people wandering around wounded first,” May said. “We help as many as we can, as fast as we can, before we start the dig out. But you're going to be safe, in your shelter, but we know where you're at."

The registration for existing shelters can be done online by clicking here.

They only register FEMA-approved storm shelters now, not basements or closets, unless that safe spot has been checked out by a building engineer.