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20-40-60 Etiquette: Hard question for shelter owners

20-40-60 Etiquette talks about hosting pets and extra people in storm shelters during a tornado, with Business Editor Don Mecoy as guest.
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Callie Gordon Published: June 23, 2013

Sadly, with recent tragic events, we've all had to think about these issues. But the more we can address them on sunny days ahead of time, the better off we will be in a panic. If you'd like to ask neighbors if they have room for one more family, do so apart from the storm.

HELEN'S ANSWER: God bless Oklahoma. We need all the storm shelters we can find.

If I had a shelter, it would be hard to turn someone away, particularly if the tornado was close by, but hopefully a neighbor would talk to me in advance so that he would know the size of the shelter and the number of people he could bring. Most people, particularly those with basements, are happy to accommodate people and pets.

During Oklahoma's last tornado, one of my friends called to see if his neighbor had room for him in his shelter. When told the shelter was small and could hold only a limited number of people and it was already filled with his family, the man headed for a local hotel with a basement. His feelings were not hurt. The reality was that the neighbor could not cram another person underground. Be storm aware and plan shelter arrangements and ask if pets are welcome.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Don Mecoy, The Oklahoman's Business Editor: My family installed an in-ground storm shelter within a year of the May 3, 1999, Moore tornado. We have descended into its depths several times, although we've been fortunate enough to have never taken a direct hit. While we've never been approached by neighbors seeking shelter, I believe lifeboat rules would apply to such a situation.

That is, we'll take on as many people as we can without sinking the boat. In this case, the door on top of the shelter must close and no one on the bottom can suffocate. I must note that we already are putting seven people (my family of six and my mother from across the street) in a shelter designed for six. It's a conversation that I would be glad to have with a neighbor who is planning ahead. I would much prefer to deal with the issue during calm weather than in a moment of panic.

Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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by Callie Gordon
Freelance Writer
Callie Gordon, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, is working at Chesapeake Energy in the Environment, Health, and Safety Department. She was previously an event coordinator for Chesapeake Energy.
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