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Federal Regional Center
800 N. Loop 288
Denton, Texas 76209
(940) 898-5399

Region VI - Serving AR, LA, NM, OK, TX

Mitigation Success - Above Ground Safe Room

Don Staley and his family are no strangers to storms and tornados. Their first home was hit twice by tornadoes, in October 1998 when it suffered minor damage and then again on May 3, 1999, when it was destroyed. They rode out both storms inside the house. "It was such a frightening sound" he said, "we decided we weren't going to ride out another one inside the house".

Photo of an above-ground saferoom.In December 2000, the Staley's new home was ready at 1313 Sunrise Dr., Moore, Oklahoma. Shortly after moving in, they had an above-ground safe room constructed on the back patio. The concrete room had 8-inch thick walls, an 18-inch thick ceiling, a 10-inch foundation and a sliding entry door made of 12-gauge steel with three-quarter inch plywood on each side. The safe room is equipped with battery-powered lights and a battery powered television. (Note: Homeowners locked safe room after the tornado to protect belongings they had salvaged.)

When the warning sirens sounded on Thursday, May 8, 2003, Don along with his dog and two cats took shelter in the safe room and rode out the storm feeling very protected and safe. "I was watching it on TV in there," he recalled. "I could see it was coming my way and I could hear it coming. I could hear the roar. That's a sound you never forget." When he emerged from the shelter, he found his house in shambles with the roof ripped off. Other houses on the street were also heavily damaged or destroyed.

This home was among the more than 300 homes destroyed in the City of Moore, Oklahoma. Moore also was hit by a severe tornado in May of 1999. That tornado claimed 44 lives; there were no deaths in 2003. The absence of fatalities is being attributed to community preparedness, improved early warning systems and the many safe rooms and shelters that have been built.

Photo of the destruction a tornado left. Photo of the destruction a tornado left.

Staley sums it all up, "The safe room saved my life, it came through with flying colors. It's worth a million bucks to me."

Last Updated: Tuesday, 01-Jul-2003 16:28:48 EDT
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