NORMAN — City officials say this might be the last tornado season that four schools will be designated as public storm shelters.
The city has public shelters at Whittier and Irving middle schools, Cleveland Elementary School and Little Axe High School, but none is certified as a tornado safe shelter, Fire Chief James Fullingim said.
Whittier Middle School affords a higher level of safety than the other schools and is safer than a mobile home park that is nearby, but the others don't meet minimum safety standards, he said.
Fullingim discussed the problem with city council members during a study session this week.
The risks of getting to the schools outweigh the benefits for most people, the chief said.
“People have a false sense of security about schools,” he said. “We believe ‘sheltering in place' is a safer option for most people.”
The public shelters often are overcrowded, and there is no way to limit their use to just mobile home park residents, Fullingim said.
When a storm hits during school hours, he said, “it also poses a safety concern for the school. You're letting people inside the school that you don't know anything about, while students are there.”