OKLAHOMA CITY – A safe room built adjacent to Tushka Public School in Atoka County, Oklahoma, sheltered approximately half the town’s residents, and very possibly saved their lives, during the April 14 tornado.
Nearly 200 men, women, children and firefighters stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the safe room and rode out winds of up to 165 miles-per-hour.
“The death toll would have been much higher had there not been a safe room to take shelter in,” said Tushka Mayor Brickie Griffin. “We are thankful we had a safe room on April 14.”
Construction on the safe room was completed in 2005. The project was funded under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP); the total cost was $140,625, with the federal share of the costs adding up to $105,469.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, which administers the hazard mitigation grant program for the state, worked with Tushka officials to make the project a reality. The Tushka school safe room is one of 77 built with hazard mitigation funding across the state.
“We recognize the leadership and commend the foresight of Tushka officials in working to ensure their community had a place to shelter during the tornado,” said State Coordinating Officer and Director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) Albert Ashwood.
“The goal of a safe room is to provide refuge from storms for individuals and families,” said Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) William J. Doran III. “As we saw in the town of Tushka, a safe room can be vital in protecting lives and provides a safe haven from the effects of devastating tornadoes.”
FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides grants to states, local governments and Indian tribes for long-term hazard mitigation projects. The purpose of the program is to reduce the loss of life and property in future disasters by funding mitigation measures during the recovery phase of a natural disaster.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) prepares for, responds to, recovers from and mitigates against emergencies and disasters. The department delivers service to Oklahoma cities, towns and counties through a network of more than 350 local emergency managers.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards