Tulsans Urged To Register Storm Shelters Online

Tuesday, April 1st 2014, 1:46 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The city of Tulsa is working to map out storm shelters so they won't have to start from scratch as they try to find people who could be trapped in tornado debris.

The fire department is doing an online registration for storm shelters, and it's free. They need the information now, because after a tornado, an address is only the starting point.

They have a map of every storm shelter registered with the City of Tulsa. They're the little dots, but the map is far from complete, because the city only recently started requiring registration for safe rooms.

The Fire Department wants to know where they all are to speed up search and rescue after a tornado.

Captain Stan May said, "The above ground ones are easier to find, but the below ground ones, if the house is collapsed, and in Moore and Joplin we had dozens of blocks where the house was collapsed and it was hard to determine who belonged to what."

The fire department can use registration data to locate shelters using GPS coordinates. When a new one is installed now, the registration and location information gets on the map automatically, but anything that's more than a few months old might not be on the list.

11/26/2013 Related Story: Geo-Tagging Being Used To Help Rescuers Find Families In Wake Of Disaster

The city is encouraging people with old safe rooms to call in.

"Right now we're around 840, and the list is climbing every day as the word gets out and now that we're getting where there's a chance of tornadic activity, we're going to get a whole lot more calls," May said. 

A registered storm shelter is one aspect of tornado planning. Tulsa Emergency Management is encouraging people to also let relatives know where to find them if there's a storm.

Jamie Ott with Tulsa Emergency Management, said, "We're going into our storm shelter and if you don't hear from us in a couple of hours, call and let somebody know we're in our storm shelter."

Emergency managers know there are many more shelters than registrations, so they're hoping people will sign up if they have one.

"In case the building is collapsed, the apartment building next door is in your house, we've got a lot of ground to search and it speeds up things for everybody," May said.

Registration for safe rooms is free, but they will only register FEMA certified safe rooms.

The form is online or you can also register through the city's customer care line at 918-596-2100.