Launch Slideshow

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10 ways to improve tornado response

10 ways to improve tornado response

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  • Piles of residential debris (pictured in June 2011) in Joplin, Mo., sit in the right of way awaiting collection during Expedited Debris Removal. The city was struck by an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011.

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    Piles of residential debris (pictured in June 2011) in Joplin, Mo., sit in the right of way awaiting collection during Expedited Debris Removal. The city was struck by an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011.

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    Suzanne Everson/FEMA

    Piles of residential debris (pictured in June 2011) in Joplin, Mo., sit in the right of way awaiting collection during Expedited Debris Removal. The city was struck by an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011.

  • Tuscaloosa County in Alabama was able to get a functioning Emergency Management Agency (EMA) with help from the Mobile Emergency Response Support. The previous EMA was destroyed in the April 27, 2011, tornado.

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    Tuscaloosa County in Alabama was able to get a functioning Emergency Management Agency (EMA) with help from the Mobile Emergency Response Support. The previous EMA was destroyed in the April 27, 2011, tornado.

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    Tim Burkitt/ FEMA

    Tuscaloosa County in Alabama was able to get a functioning Emergency Management Agency (EMA) with help from the Mobile Emergency Response Support. The previous EMA was destroyed in the April 27, 2011, tornado.

  • Police officers Jeff Dutton and Mohanead Tabia survey damage in Moored, Okla.

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    Police officers Jeff Dutton and Mohanead Tabia survey damage in Moored, Okla.

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    Andrea Booher/FEMA

    Police officers Jeff Dutton and Mohanead Tabia survey damage in Moored, Okla.

  • The Debris Task Force conducts an assessment after an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, Mo.

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    The Debris Task Force conducts an assessment after an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, Mo.

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    Elissa Jun/FEMA

    The Debris Task Force conducts an assessment after an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, Mo.

  • Debris Removal Continues in Tornado Ravaged Community

    Volunteer crews help local residents with debris removal on private property in Moore, Okla. Cleanup continues throughout areas that were impacted by the May 20, 2013, tornado.

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    Volunteer crews help local residents with debris removal on private property in Moore, Okla. Cleanup continues throughout areas that were impacted by the May 20, 2013, tornado.

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    Jocelyn Augustino/ FEMA

    Volunteer crews help local residents with debris removal on private property in Moore, Okla. Cleanup continues throughout areas that were impacted by the May 20, 2013, tornado.

10. Have an emergency purchasing plan

“We all carry credit cards to buy things if needed,” Tuscaloosa’s Hartin says. “There are a lot of things you’ll need.”

For example, if municipal fuel pumps aren’t operating or are too far away, he buys fuel at a commercial gas station. Street signs will be gone, so have spray paint and markers to identify where streets and houses are; the same with tarps and flashlight batteries.

These and other items are often quickly accessible, but there needs to be means to secure them.

Tina Grady Barbaccia is a freelance writer in Naperville, Ill. E-mail comments to Editor in Chief Stephanie Johnston at sjohnston@hanleywood.com.


Safe room by law?

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management developed the SoonerSafe – Safe Room Rebate program to provide a rebate as an incentive for Oklahoma homeowners to buyand install of safe rooms. A safe room includes any above or below ground shelter in which the design, construction, and installation comply with the 2008 versions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Publications 320 (Taking Shelter from the Storm) and FEMA 361 (Design and Construction Criteria for Community Safe Rooms), as well as ICC 500 (Standards for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters). Oklahoma is providing this safe room rebate program through the use of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program through FEMA funds that the state receives as a result of presidentially-declared disasters, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM).

The intent of the agency is to offer this program on an annual basis, contingent upon federal funding. The program uses a random selection process to choose names so that everyone who registers will have an equal chance to be selected

.A maximum rebate of $2,000 is available per home, but it can’t exceed 75% of the actual cost of the safe room, according to OEM. The cost of a safe room varies depending on a number of factors, including size and type of safe room. Construction industry experts estimate the cost to build/install a safe room ranges from $2,000 to $8,000 or more, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

The Oklahoma Constitution states that up to 100 square feet of a safe room installed after Jan. 1, 2002, is exempt from taxation. Studies demonstrate that a safe room can survive winds as high as 250 miles per hour, according to FEMA Publication 320. 

Now as El Reno, Okla., and in Moore, Okla., which was hit with an EF-5 tornado on May 20, is digging out from the aftermath of the storms, Mayor Glenn Lewis says he plans to push a law locally that would storm shelters or safe rooms in new homes, according to a report in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper. However, he says, realistically, city officials may be able to require them only in new assisted living facilities and apartment complexes because of cost concerns, according to the Herald report. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says a citywide mandate would not be considered statewide. According to the Herald report, if a person chooses to build a safe room, it will be encourage but nothing will be required.

Some local governments in Kansas have taken steps to pass legislation similar to what Mayor Lewis plans to push, which would make storm shelter requirements for mobile home parks, but Moore would be the first Tornado Alley community to fully adopt these measures, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Moore, which has a population of about 56,000, has nearly 3,000 residential shelters, Community Development Director Elizabeth Jones said. 

How to Forecast Tornado Debris Volume

There are three basic techniques that are used for debris forecasting, according to the Disaster Debris Management Training Manual—Debris Forecasting and Estimating 2013. The techniques are as follows: An analysis of prior debris generating events can be conducted for your community. With this analysis, it may be possible to plan for effective response to similar type events. However, because the event may have been limited in scope or experienced debris staff is no longer available, this method has severe limitations, according to the Debris Management Manual.

More commonly, a community-based risk analysis is completed to determine the types and quantities of debris generated by various events. This analysis is then used as a critical component of the debris management plan, Debris Management Training Manual.

Computers can be used for both of the first two techniques to perform calculations and present the analysis. However, according to the Debris Management Training Manual.there are a range of computer-based prediction models available to perform some of the more routine calculations, use a community’s Geographical Information System (GIS) and plan for any number of event scenarios.

Measurements can be done several ways. In most cases, measurements are made by volume (cubic yards). However, if material is being taken to a landfill, there may be access to a scale for weight measurements. For demolition, contractors may use a lump sum price.

The first consideration is the type of debris – i.e. vegetative, construction and demolition, mobile homes or a mix of various types of debris. Handling requirements, such as whether the debris must be separated must be considered. The debris estimating process can be expedited by dividing the community into sectors based on type of debris: woody, mixed or construction material; location of debris: residential, commercial, or industrial; and land use: rural or urbanThe following formula from the Debris Management Training Manual can serve as an estimating aid for buildings to assist public works officials with determining the amount of debris from destroyed buildings, homes and debris piles:

One-story building formula 
L’xW’xH’ = ___ CY x .33 = ___ CY
27’ per cy

One-story house formula 
L’xW’x8’ = ____ cubic yards x 0.33 = ____ cubic yards of debris
27’ per cy
(The 0.33 factor accounts for the “air space” in the house)

Outbuildings
L’xW’xH’x.033 = ____ cubic yards of debris
27’ per cy

Mobile homes formula 
L’xW’xH’ = CY
27’ per cy

Debris piles
L’xW’xH’ = ___ CY
27’ per cy

Length =L, Width = W, and Height = H. All measurements are in “feet”.

Notes: The 0.33 factor is not applied to mobile home calculations due to their compact construction. The 27 factor is the conversion factor from cubic feet to cubic yards.