SURVIVE THE STORM: Where the nearest FEMA shelter is to you

Published: Apr. 2, 2017 at 7:05 PM CDT
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The typical warning time before a tornado is around 15-20 minutes and if you do not have a place to take shelter in your home that may not be enough time to make it to a shelter like ones around the Ozarks designated as FEMA safe rooms or shelters.

That is why it is important to know where the nearest FEMA shelter is to you. There are in the Ozarks. But many people Reporter Stephanie Garland talked to did not know where the nearest FEMA shelter was.

Even on a peaceful day, this father and daughter know all too well no matter what they are doing … tornadoes could hit.

"You never know when severe weather can strike, especially here in the Ozarks," said Hailey Bair, who lives in the Ozarks.

But if severe weather hit right now, the Blairs do not know where to go.

"I do not know where the nearest FEMA shelter is," continued Hailey Bair.

"Where is it? Here at Fellows Lake? Hmmm I don't think I know," said Don Bair, who also lives in the Ozarks.

Some Ozarks FEMA shelter owners do let people know where to go. In Clever, it is just the people who live within a half-mile radius of the shelter.

"We send out letters, but we also do electronic communication," said Clever Director of Elementary Education, Benjy Fenske.

"For Nixa we send out a notification once a year either in a post card or magazine that goes out to everyone in Nixa because we do have a lot of people that move in," said Zac Rantz, Nixa Public Schools Chief Communications Officer and Safety Coordinator.

Others admit it is something that needs improvement.

"Something we probably need to think about. Again it's available on our web site. You've given me some thoughts of something we probably need to think about as we have new people roll in, move to this area to at least know its here," said OTC Richwood Valley Campus President, Dr. Jeff Jochems.

But emergency managers said, if there is a tornado warning, you might want to get in a safe place where you are.

"If there is a FEMA rated shelter within a mile of your location or roughly within a five minute drive distance, you know it is permissible to do that. But we more highly recommend that folks say where they're at," said Greene County Office of Emergency Management Interim Director, Larry Woods.

If you do want in a shelter, beware the rules are different for every location.

Clever R-V School District’s storm shelters, for example, are open only during a tornado warning.

"We prepare them during a tornado watch. But they are open once the watch turns to a warning," said Clever R-V School District Director, Benjy Fenske.

For those in Nixa, they are open – even during a watch.

"They are opened once a tornado watch is issued. That kinda gives them extra time to travel," said Nixa Public Schools Chief Communication Officer, Zac Rantz.

"When a watch is first issued is when we open the shelter," said President of the OTC Richwood Valley and Table Rock Campuses, Dr. Jeff Jochems.

So what happens if you get to a FEMA shelter before the person opens it? At Ozark Technical College, Richwood Valley Campus in Nixa, employees have included a button outside which automatically connects you to 911 call dispatch for Christian County to make sure you can get the help you need.

"We get so focused on us and the students and faculty and some I think lose sight it really is for the community. We need to make sure they're aware and know it's here," continued Dr. Jeff Jochems.

This would help the Blairs and others.

"I would appreciate newscasts about it, flyers, somehow making it public knowledge where these locations would be," Hailey Bair finished.

KSPR News has spent more than a dozen hours putting together where the more than 200 FEMA shelters are across the state. That information is included on this story as a pdf.