The Norman Fire Chief says your family could be safer staying at home than at that city's public storm shelters. Right now there are four public shelters in Norman at schools with recreation centers at Whittier, Cleveland, Irving and Little Axe. As a tornado tore across Oklahoma May 10, 2010, Cleveland County was one the hardest hit areas, especially the east side of Norman. That means finding an interior room with no windows on the first floor, a safe room, or underground shelter. Despite the safety concerns, the city says it's keeping those shelters open again this year. FEMA recommends no more than an 8-minute walking distance to where your family decides to take shelter.

A tornado shelter is all that remains of a severely damaged building after a tornado struck Tushka, Okla., on May 2, 2011. During the tornado in May 24, 2011, emergency responders learned about the risks associated with public storm shelters, Ball said, whether they’re city-owned structures or simply churches, businesses and others that open their doors to residents who need a place to take shelter. When people seek shelter at places like OU, it causes problems for the institution and for the residents themselves, he said. While a storm shelter is the best option, many Oklahomans have to find another place to take shelter. Officials say a plan needs to be in place ahead of time, rather than counting on public shelters that might not be there when they need them. Since the May 2011 storm, emergency managers have increasingly concluded that public shelters can do more harm than good, he said.

But city officials closed those shelters to encourage residents to shelter in place during tornadoes, so thousands of residents flocked to campus. To stay safe during storms, residents need to prepare well ahead of time rather than counting on public shelters that might not be there when they need them, he said.

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