Cherokee Casino Ready For Severe Weather

Monday, March 23rd 2009, 4:53 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

CATOOSA, OK -- With severe weather getting ready to pound the Tulsa area, businesses are doing what they can to stay prepared.  Gamblers at the Cherokee Casino are hoping for a hot hand, but the staff isn't taking any chances this season when it comes to severe weather.

"You can't predict when something's going to happen, so we assume that at any point in time, we could be in danger," said Cherokee Casino CEO David Stewart.

In the 15 years before Catoosa was devastated by the 1993 tornado, the town was rocked by three other twisters, all F-2 or higher.  Last year, many staff members received specialized training from FEMA.  The weather training allows casino workers to decipher for themselves the threat level.

About 16 of the casino's 100 member security team received the federal training and carry around laptops with up-to-the-minute weather alerts and radar.

"When I back it up, you can actually see the road that leads up to the casino.  We're getting it a few minutes faster, and in weather, a few minutes counts," said Casino Security Manager Bil Caraway.

On a busy night, the casino says they have 6,000 guests playing. And, the staff says they can evacuate the entire gaming floor in less than eight minutes.

"They would go outside or to specific areas we've designated as safe house," said Cherokee Casino CEO David Stewart.

And, even if lady luck is running her course, guests say they appreciate the effort.

"I feel safe. It don't bother me. If I was in a hot streak, I'd just cash out," said gambler Mike Stewart.

Staff members at the other six Cherokee Nation casinos have all received the FEMA training in weather analysis.

Security workers at the Catoosa location tell The News On 6 they have practiced evacuating the entire casino for safety drills.