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Siloam Springs 'Discourages' Public Storm Shelters

SILOAM SPRINGS, AR -- Before the storm hits is the time to discuss emergency plans with your family and one city does not want that plan to include searching for a public storm shelter.
SILOAM SPRINGS, AR -- Before the storm hits is the time to discuss emergency plans with your family and one city does not want that plan to include searching for a public storm shelter.

Many families have talked about where the safest place is in their home. If you live in a mobile home, you should have a plan with somebody close by that has a solid structure. For Siloam Springs Police, the safest place in their building is the jail and they want folks to start sheltering where they are instead of hitting the streets when severe weather rolls in.

"We do not have a public shelter and we actually discourage a public shelter."

The City of Siloam Springs is taking a stand against public storm shelters and encouraging everyone to re-think how they respond to severe weather.

"You want to be inside that vehicle as little as possible so any plan that you have needs to be try to shelter in place... Anybody that's in that home should be able to get that plan and be able to get into a safe place within 3 to 5 seconds," said Police Lt. Bryan Austin, Director of Siloam Springs Emergency Management.

When a storm strikes, many still react by getting in their cars and searching for sturdier shelter. Lt. Austin wants to change that thought process.

"Being inside of a vehicle is one of the worst places to be... Also, what happens when that shelter gets full? Where do we go with those other individuals?... Part of that getting to the shelter is adding to traffic congestion. Now, we've got several vehicles on the road trying to get to one location."

In addition, if a storm hits a shelter, the aftermath could be devastating.

"What happens if that building gets hit and those individuals aren't able to get out of that building and it catches fire... How many people are inside there, how many resources are going to be needed to take care of that one situation and not be able to provide it throughout the city? So you've got a mass casualty situation."

So to best protect the people of Siloam Springs, Lt. Austin wants them to have a plan and shelter in place. If you have a storm shelter at home, that is even better. If not, Siloam Springs created and posted a video of how to take cover in your house.

"We look at history and we try to learn and grow on those experiences. Some of those, as tragic as they may be, I think can give us some examples of what it is that we should or we should not do."

Other Northwest Arkansas cities that do not have a public storm shelter include Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville. Some cited similar reasons as Siloam Springs for not having a public shelter, like not wanting people to travel in their cars during a storm.



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