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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Storm Shelter GPS Coordinates Could Help Rescuers in Aftermath of Tornado

As reported by KSHB: For several years, Larry Hall and his wife, Jan, saved up to buy a storm shelter in their Belton home.

Last month, they ordered the unit and had it installed in their garage. When the man who assembled the shelter was finished, he presented the Halls with a certificate. It had the GPS coordinates of their storm shelter. The installer then gave the halls instructions on what to do with those coordinates.

“It says right here ‘Owner’s advised to share with the fire department or with the office of emergency management,” said Larry Hall.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Storm Shelter Association both give the same advice. They believe this information could prove valuable for emergency responders.

After a tornado, streets usually are covered in debris. Street signs may be missing. It’s also sometimes difficult to tell from the debris where homes once stood. When emergency responders arrive, they spend a lot of time hoping they have picked a good spot to dig.

However, with that GPS information, emergency responders could arrived with a handheld GPS location device. That would allow them to pinpoint a specific location where they should start digging.

Emergency Management offices would keep this information in a private database. Participation would be voluntary.

The cities of Moore and Oklahoma City in Oklahoma have started compiling this information. Storm shelter companies are already providing the information to homeowners.

However, when Larry Hall contacted Cass County, he found out they were not taking that information yet.

41 Action News spoke to Cass County Emergency Management Director Stan Swaggart over the phone. He said the idea of collecting GPS coordinates is so new, his county is still devising a good system for doing it.

Swaggart also believes collecting the information would be beneficial to emergency responders. He said he has had several people contact his office wanting to report their coordinates.

Hall said he is glad to hear his county is working on a way to collect this information.

“I figured in this part of the country anything you can do at all helps,” said Hall.