Register your storm shelter before tornado season

Lawton_No tornadoes in the forecast tonight, but if there were, quite a few Comanche County residents would have somewhere to go - they would go to their storm shelters.  But, Comanche County Emergency Management says there is another side to storm shelters - one you may not have thought about.  Believe it or not, while a shelter can save your life, it can also trap you.

Comanche County Emergency Management had developed the "Storm Shelter Registry," a valuable tool for emergency responders.  "If a home has collapsed on it [a shelter] we might not be able to hear the people calling for help and may overlook them just because we don't know the shelters there," says Emergency Management Director Clint Wagstaff.  "We hope that it never is needed, but it's a very simple process and should only take the residents a couple of minutes of their time to call 211 and report that they do have an emergency shelter," he says.

If you have a shelter, you can call 211 any time and give your information.  That way, if a tornado strikes, rescue teams will know where to find you.  The debris from devastating tornados has been known to trap people right in their shelters.  "Tornados have come across the country, and we found people in storm shelters days and weeks later when homes collapsed on the shelters," says Wagstaff.

There are other ways to prepare for a tornado, too:  have an emergency kit with flashlights, a first aid kit, an extra cell phone battery, medications, and one gallon of water per person.  "We would also advise people that have the shelters to be sure to let their neighbors, or close friends, know exactly where they're located, and that they are welcome to use that shelter," says Wagstaff.

When you call 211 to report that you have a shelter, just give them your name, address, and location of the shelter.  Then they'll add you to the registry.  That way, if disaster strikes, rescue teams will know your location, and you are sure to stay safe.

Comanche County Emergency Management says that information you provide to them is confidential and will not be released to anyone.