Apartment complexes don't require severe weather plan

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 COLUMBIA - As severe weather season approaches, people living in some of the new apartment complexes may not be ready when severe weather season arrives.

"They didn't really tell us the protocol for severe weather," apartment renter Catelyne Snitker said.

Apartment tenant Mitchell Urban said, "I'm not sure where we're supposed to go, honestly." 

Despite the safety concern during severe weather season, Columbia apartment complexes are not required to have a severe weather plan in place.

“The fire code does not require apartment complexes to have a severe weather plan, so it’s not something the fire department enforces,” Battalion Chief Brad Frazier said.

It’s not just Columbia that doesn’t have a required severe weather plan to be put in place by developers.

KOMU 8 News reached out to a development company in a similar college town; Fayetteville, Arkansas. Kendra Butterfield with Specialized Real Estate Group said there are no severe weather plan requirements in place there, but she does think there should be.

“There should be some sort of plan of action in place so residents know where they should go,” Butterfield said.

Deputy Director of Boone County Emergency Management Tom Hurley also said he does not know any city that enforces a severe weather plan.

“I’m not aware of any place in the country that requires tenants to have a plan of any kind whether it be for severe weather or fire for their tenants,” Hurley said.

Despite not having a required severe weather plan, Frazier still thinks a plan would be beneficial.

“It’s a smart thing for a property owner to do to have placarding explaining where to go in case of an emergency,” Frazier said.

He also said some businesses choose to provide a plan.

“Business owners have plans, hotels for example opt to have a severe weather plan and we collaborate with them on those plans,” Frazier said. He also said the fire department would assist with helping apartments come up with plans as well.

“We’re certainly willing to do that with apartment complexes and we encourage them to have those types of plans,” Frazier said.

Hurley also said that they are open to helping come up with a plan.

“We try and stay out of the direct planning for housing structures, but if need be we can certainly come by and do a site visit and speak to land owners, property owners about what would be the safest position for their tenants to be in in a disaster or emergency,” Hurley said.

Hurley also said that the infrastructure of a building is not the most dangerous part of a tornado or severe weather.

“The debris is certainly the most dangerous item around. It’s not building collapse, it’s not structural failure, it’s the debris that’s brought with the tornado.” Hurley said.

The residential halls on the University of Missouri campus do have a severe weather plan.

“We’re not required to, it’s simply a best practice when you house such large numbers of people,” Associate Director of Residential Academic Programs Kristen Temple said.

She said all residence halls and student apartments have severe weather plan in place. Students and staff practice these plans every semester.

Each plan varies by building but all follow a similar practice.

“Moving students into the areas that have been designated as safer areas of the building in the event of a tornado or other severe weather,” Temple said.

Hurley said if you want to have a plan for when severe weather strikes, it’s important to talk with those you rent from.

“You need to open up a dialogue with your landlord or property owner and the tenants to ensure everybody is aware of the safest location in the building is,” Hurley said.

If severe weather were to happen and you are in an apartment complex or building without a basement, there are still places for you to go.

“An interior windowless room is your safest bet, even on the fourth floor. If you have access to a basement facility, perhaps storage or where there’s laundry or a sturdy stairwell or concrete stairwell,” Hurley said.