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Fort Worth Residents Seek Answers For Public Shelter During Storms

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The City of Fort Worth was flooded with calls during recent bad weather asking if there is a public shelter during storms.  The answer is no.  There is no official public shelter.

But there are plenty of public places to find safety if you’re caught out in a storm. The problem is, most people think the same as way as Paul Crockett, who works in downtown Fort Worth.

“It doesn’t cross my mind,” Crockett said of having an emergency shelter plan. “We don’t get many around here. Well, we did last week. Its unusual to get them. It not something I think about all the time.”

“People who live here in Texas think they’re used to it,” Said Randy Westerman, education specialist for Fort Worth Fire Department’s Emergency Management. “It’s not going to happen to them. It’s always going to happen to somebody else.”

And that thinking can be a fatal mistake.  Emergency experts say the first thing you have to do is to judge your surroundings by their quality as a shelter.  That way you’re not just picking the first place you see like this:

“I’d run across the street to the lower level under there, its pretty much covered,” said downtown Fort Worth worker J.J. Johnson after a quick scan of the corner he was on.

He had pointed to a stairwell leading to an office below street level as the first spot he would shelter in a tornado.  That spot, though, is also lined with windows which could become flying shrapnel.

“That could be a problem,” Johnson said after realizing the glass was there.

Big buildings with basements aren’t always the safest places either.

“We are in a basement, but this is a wide open atrium here and you have windows up in the top in the skylights,” Westerman said as he looked up into the cavernous central atrium of Fort Wort City Hall. “Well, those probably won’t be there when a tornado comes around. That’s just going to be an opening for everything to go straight up.”

Experts say look for buildings or areas within buildings with emergency shelter signs or even the old fall-out signs.  They’ll have interior walls and few or no windows. Go as far into the interior of the building as you can, and have a plan for your home or office.

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