Owasso Church Adds Several Underground Shelters

Wednesday, March 26th 2014, 7:43 pm
By: Craig Day

With storm season here, severe weather safety should be on all our minds. A local church is the first in Oklahoma to take part in a pilot program designed to keep people safe.

Sometimes businesses have shelters, and a lot of people are getting them for their homes. But it's not often you see shelters at churches, but an Owasso church hopes that changes.

Just off 145th East Avenue in Owasso, Silver Creek Church of the Nazarene has a new addition.

There's still a little bit of landscaping to do, but the church now has several new underground storm shelters.

Church Pastor, Nathan Burns said, "We have the space let's do it."

Nazarene disaster response teams have helped in the aftermath of disasters all over the world, including the Moore and Joplin tornados.

"We respond after, quite often after the tragedy happens," said Burns. "But what can we do in a measure of prevention."

That's the question that led the Nazarene Church's Oklahoma districts to come up with a pilot program to provide grant money to put shelters outside churches. Silver Creek is the first to get them.

"Our decision to do this is based upon our concern for the community, and to give people a safe place to go in case of severe weather," Burns said.

The $11,000 grant paid for three shelters, and they're not just for church members. They'll be open for people in nearby neighborhoods or those who happen to be driving by when the weather is tornadic.

"We just thought we could put some storm shelters in our own property, and give an opportunity to give the community a safe place in case they were out, in case they needed a place to go underground," said Burns.

Each one of the tornado shelters is designed to hold up to 25 people. They'll be crammed inside of here, but when a major tornado is bearing down, personal space doesn't mean as much.

Burns survived an EF-5 tornado in his Ohio hometown when he was six years old. So he's thrilled to provide protection for people in Owasso and to be a part of a pilot program he hopes will expand.

"Our hope would be that other local churches, even beyond the church of the Nazarene, to find it a positive way to impact the community," Burns said.

The shelters will be open during severe weather situations, but locked and secured when the weather isn't severe.