LAWTON, OK (TNN) - As we head into severe weather season, we’re reminding you of some precautions you can take to keep your family safe.
While many families in Southwest Oklahoma seek shelter underground, not everyone has that luxury. Ashleigh Hensch, with Comanche County Emergency Management says there is a standard protocol to follow if you are forced to stay in your home.
“If you’re in a traditional home, find the middle most room without any windows," Hensch said. "You want to have as many barriers between you and the outside as possible.”
But what about homes with an open floor plan? With fewer walls, you may find it difficult to find shelter, but Hensch says a room without windows, like a bathroom, will be the next best thing.
“Make sure you have helmets or something to protect your head," said Hensch. "Regardless of where you’re at, you want to protect your neck and head. That’s the top priority for wherever you’re taking shelter.”
There are some things to take into consideration when it comes to building homes in Tornado Alley. Gary Brickley is a Civil Engineer and owner of Fox, Dreschler and Brickley Inc. in Altus. He explains building codes are set out for inspectors to check for the chance of survival for the occupants, not necessarily the structure.
“The codes are written based on a certain event," said Brickley. "Folks can ride out the building, newer buildings and safely exit the building after the danger has passed. That’s the reason for the inspection. Make sure the walls are anchored properly to the foundation, the roof is anchored properly.”
Any structure above ground in the direct path of a F-2 tornado or above will likely be destroyed. A concrete safe room is your best bet to withstand high winds.
“An F-2 tornado is about 150 mph and that’s the speed of an arrow shot from a recurve bow," he said. "So you’ve got broom handles, debris, fence posts flying around at 150 mph, and it’s very destructive. The wind speeds just pick up from there.”
Brickley says anyone in the market for a new home should look for signs that it’s structurally safe, and it starts with research.
“Check in to the reputation of the original builder," he said. "A good look around the house will tell you about its quality and a good home inspector should be able to identify anything major.”
Regardless of where you live, try to have a back up plan. Communicate with nearby family or neighbors and share their storm shelter if possible.