Security & Business Resilience / Government: Federal, State and Local

Stronger Building Codes Could Have Saved More in Joplin Tornado

Stronger building codes, more storm shelters and improved emergency communication systems could have significantly reduced the death toll and the costs of rebuilding from the 2011 Joplin tornado.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the U.S. Commerce Department, released its 492-page draft report in Joplin at a Missouri Southern State University news conference. The agency called the study the first to take a systematic look at how communities across the country can better prepare for tornadoes — in essence, how to prevent another Joplin-scale disaster.

"The overarching conclusion of our two-year study is that death and destruction from tornadoes can be reduced," said Eric Letvin, the institute's director of disaster and failure studies.

"Our scientific understanding of tornadoes and their effects has matured substantially," he added. "It's time to begin developing and implementing nationally accepted standards and codes that directly address tornado hazards."

The May 2011 Joplin tornado killed 161 people and destroyed thousands of buildings, including homes, churches, businesses big and small, and one of the city's two hospitals. The study found that all but 26 of the deaths came from building collapses. It cited "confusion about or distrust" of emergency storm warnings and a "lack of awareness" of the tornado's approach.

The study documents 47 specific findings and offers 16 recommendations. But institute officials emphasized that most of the power to make such changes rests with state and local governments, and private businesses.

In Joplin, elected leaders have agreed to require all post-tornado construction to use hurricane-clips on every rafter and truss. An American Society of Civil Engineers study released in June found that more than 83 percent of the structural damage was caused by winds of up to 135 mph, which is the equivalent maximum wind speed of an EF-2 tornado.

And while the National Weather Service classified the Joplin tornado as an EF-5, with peak winds of more than 200 mph, both recent studies conclude that much of the damage could have been avoided with sturdier construction.

"The buildings in Joplin performed as expected," Letvin said. "They were not designed to withstand tornado winds. And not surprisingly, they failed."

The city also lacked community storm shelters for those in harm's way, the report noted. Joplin has since made such structures a hallmark of its rebuilding efforts, with plans to build reinforced safe rooms at each of its public schools. The city has also received dozens of storm shelters that were used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at temporary housing sites that have since been closed.

The report urges policymakers and construction industry leaders to engage in more uniform oversight of tornadoes akin to preventative efforts taken with other natural disasters.

"Current U.S. model building codes include requirements to protect against many different types of hazards, including hurricanes, earthquakes and floods," Letvin said. "They do not include requirements to protect against tornado hazards, which include extreme wind speeds and impacts from wind debris."

www.abcnews.com

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Security Magazine. 

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

ASIS 2013 Product Preview

ASIS International 59th Annual Seminar and Exhibits, September 24-27 in Chicago, Illinois, will include an exhibit hall packed with innovative security solutions. Here are some of the products that will be shown at ASIS this year.

Podcasts

Virtualization and Data Center Security: What You Need to Know for 2014

Data centers are increasingly becoming the center of the enterprise, and data center and cyber security is following the same path for security departments. According to Justin Flynn, a consultant at the Burwood Group, the virtualization of data centers allows enterprises to scale more easily and faster, with a smaller footprint.

However, hosting enterprise data in the cloud can make intrusion detection more difficult – how can enterprise security leaders team up with other departments to keep aware of cyber risks and traffic, and physical and data compliance during the virtual transition? How can CISOs and CSOs discuss cyber threats with the C-Suite to get the resources they need? And how can the proper infrastructure test and verify possible malicious attacks? 

More Podcasts

Security Magazine

September 2014

2014 September

In the September issue of Security Magazine, find out who this year's most influential people are in the security industry are. Also, take a peek at the technology products that ASIS 2014 will be showcasing at the upcoming event. Read about the lessons learned from security at the World Cup, find out why tactical medical training is a must for your enterprise and how Atlanta increased security by sharing surveillance.
Table Of Contents Subscribe

Adopting New Technology

How long do you wait before adopting a new technology?
View Results Poll Archive

THE SECURITY STORE

comptiahighriseproductphoto
CompTIA Security+ Certification Study Guide
CompTIA's Security+ certification is a globally-recognized, vendor neutral exam that has helped over 60,000 IT professionals reach further and higher in their careers. The current Security+ exam (SY0-201) focuses more on being able to deal with security issues rather than just identifying them.
More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Vertical Sector Focus: Critical Infrastructures

criticalhomepagethumbFrom terrorism to vandalism, it’s preparedness, response, training and partnerships. Learn about some of the critical security issues facing this sector.

Visit the Critical Infrastructure page to read more.  

STAY CONNECTED

Facebook 40px 2-12-13 Twitter logo 40px 2-12-13  YouTube  LinkedIn logo 40px 2-12-13Google+