Fatal Cave-In Raises Questions About Tornado Shelters

This tornado season has many in Arkansas wonder if their tornado shelters will hold up to the winds when they need it most.

One woman was killed in central Arkansas inside an above-ground tornado shelter, after a twister tore through Mayflower.

Chancy Cockrum owns Secure Shelter in Van Buren. He sells above-ground tornado shelters. He said what makes his so safe is the accessibility and their ability to withstand an EF-5 tornado.

“We`ve dropped cars on them,” Cockrum said. “We`ve run over them.”

Cockrum said shelter sales have been steady this tornado season.

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said debris caved in the door, killing a Mayflower woman who was locked away in her storm shelter.

“Most likely, it did not meet the FEMA standards,” Cockrum said. “You have to have a concrete pad, five square feet per person, two vents for air to come in. The vents have to be guarded so no debris can come through it and three points of the door latching and your hinging system.”

Cockrum said those buying shelters should be mindful of who they are buying from.

“It takes about two-and-a-half to three hours to put one in,” said Cockrum. “Most elaborate one we ever put in was about $15,000.”

The company said all of their structures are made of steel.

The National Weather Service said they are hoping to investigate the failed shelter soon.


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