A federal report on the May 2011 Joplin tornado says better building code standards and public shelters could save lives when storms like that happen.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a nearly 500-page report containing 47 findings and 16 recommendations.
The Institute began its study within days of that EF-5 tornado, that killed 161 people.
It learned that many people in Joplin tried to ride out that storm in homes, public buildings and businesses. Its report says fewer people would have died if those structures were built to resist tornadoes.
According to the Institute’s Director of Disaster and Failure Studies Eric Letvin, “Neither residential nor large commercial buildings in Joplin adequately protected building occupants. There were no community shelters in Joplin in May 2011 and residents had limited access to underground or tornado-resistant structures.”
The Institute recommends the development of national performance-based standards for tornado-resistant building designs, installation of tornado shelters in buildings, and the creation of national codes and standards for clear, consistent and accurate emergency communications.
Joplin City Officials have received that report. City Manager Mark Rohr says the City’s view is that residents should find shelter in a storm as close as possible to where they are when it hits.
“We’re not convinced that exposing themselves to the elements by getting out in the car and going to some kind of public shelter is the best idea given all the circumstances that are surrounding a tornadic-type event,” Rohr says.
Rohr says he will have city staff go over the report and prepare recommendations to present to the city within the next month.
See the report here.
Jason Rima, KTTS in Springfield and Darrin Wright, KZRG in Joplin contributed to this report.