Storm Shelters Not Required For Apartments In Columbia
COLUMBIA - After several tornado warnings in late April most apartment tenants were left wondering what to do in the case of a tornado. After calling ten different apartment complexes in Columbia KOMU 8 learned only one complex has a designated storm shelter for its tenants.
Scarlett Goodin lives on the second floor in a popular apartment complex in Columbia. Scarlett is not a stranger to tornadoes having come from southwest Missouri. She said there was a tornado that went right by her childhood home and when the siren went off she was unsure of what her next move would be.
"I called my boyfriend just to ask him what he was doing and he said he was going to the garage, but I don't have one of those. So I just went back to sleep and hoped I'd wake up in the morning," Goodin said.
KOMU 8 spoke to other residents who said they hid in bathrooms or took shelter in lower levels of the complexes, but none were able to find safety in designated storm shelters. Fifty-four percent of the people who died in the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri in 2011 were killed where they lived including houses, apartments and nursing homes.
"Unfortunately unless you're in a basement there is no ideal place to take shelter," said Martina Pounds from the Boone County Fire District's Office of Emergency Management.
Some apartment complexes did say they encouraged tenants to come to the clubhouse to take shelter. Pounds said in that case you have to choose between the lesser of two evils.
"In a big apartment complex if it does collapse you have a lot of material on top. So in a clubhouse there might not be as much material on top of you but that also means you have less around you, so it's kind of a trade off." Pounds said.
Katy Place in Columbia is the only complex that has designated storm shelters for its tenants. Marianne Martinez is the property manger at Katy Place. She said the property has six designated storm shelters spread out on their property for easy access.
"I live in another apartment complex in town and I know we don't have storm shelters and a lot of people used to call and ask the property ‘where can we go?'" Martinez said, "...And here we can tell them well you can go to these different buildings and you'll be safe."
Katy Place sends out a mass email to its tenants once they are made aware of dangerous weather to tell them to take shelter. It reminds its tenants where the shelters are and what time the weather is expected to hit the area.
There is currently no law that says apartment complexes must build storm shelters for its tenants. Goodin and Martinez both say they would like to see more complexes look into this safety measure.
"I've seen the destruction that tornadoes can cause and it's not something to take lightly," said Goodin.