|Updated: 5/24 10:18 am
||Published: 5/24 10:17 am
Four members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives are working to help provide storm shelters or safe rooms for state schools.
In the wake of the devastation of the recent tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma, resulting in lost lives and countless destruction to buildings, including two schools in Moore, state Reps. Jon Echols, Mark McBride, Richard Morrissette and Eric Proctor are forming a 501(c)(3) organization for the purpose of helping provide storm shelters or safe rooms for existing schools.
"After the horrific tornado in Moore and southwest Oklahoma City, we are reminded just how important it is to be as prepared as possible to ride out these storms," said Rep. Echols, R-Oklahoma City. "When it comes to safeguarding our children while they are at school, it must be a top concern for us all."
Most buildings in Oklahoma do not have basements because of the porous red clay soil that makes underground rooms problematic due to structure stability issues. But smaller underground shelters and above-ground safe rooms have gained popularity in recent years.
"The lives of our children are precious and need to be protected to the fullest extent possible," said Rep. Proctor, D-Tulsa. "The people of Oklahoma have the biggest hearts in the nation and I am hopeful we can join together to ensure that our children have a safe haven in times of extreme weather."
"This tornado took the lives of elementary school students," said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore. "We are all mourning the losses of those children and want to do more to protect our school-aged children moving forward. That's why we are forming this 501(c)(3) - we have to provide every school with shelters that can withstand the brunt of tornadoes like this one. Hiding in the interior of a building won't cut it when faced with a tornado on the massive level of the one that hit Moore."
"The damage done in south Oklahoma City and Moore is unbelievable," said Rep. Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. "It was heartbreaking to learn of the deaths at the schools in Moore. To ensure the safety and security of our school-aged children is paramount. I believe this project is a great idea to get safe rooms and storm shelters in schools as quickly as possible."
Rep. Echols said Oklahoma City University's School of Law has volunteered to do pro bono legal services. Also, the Oklahoma City law firm Crowe and Dunlevy is assisting on the formation of the 501(c)(3).
Kevin D. Gordon, president of Crowe and Dunlevy, said: "We're honored and happy to help in creating a charitable organization through which the state can safeguard our public schoolchildren and protect them from disasters like the terrible tornado in Moore."
"It means so much to me that Crowe and Dunlevy have volunteered their legal expertise in this matter," Rep. Echols said. "We want to get this moving as quickly as possible and having the assistance of this firm will speed the process along considerably. I thank Kevin and his firm for taking part in this very important project."
Apache Corp., which has called Oklahoma home for many of its employees since the company's first well was drilled there more than 50 years ago, has pledged $500,000 to seed the fund.
"Our hearts go out to those who have suffered due to this horrific storm," said Rob Johnston, Apache Central Region vice president. "We hope this pledge of $500,000 will not only help to provide safety for the children of Moore but also lend some comfort to families when they send their children off to school."
Apache bases its Central Region operations in Tulsa and has 369 employees throughout the state. Many Apache employees have close ties to family, friends and schools in the Moore area.
"I am beyond grateful and appreciative of Apache Corp. for providing such a large donation to get this project off the ground," Rep. McBride said. "My hometown has been devastated by this storm and knowing that this company is willing to help out so much is heartening and I thank them so very much."
"We hope many other organizations will follow our lead to help address this issue," Rep. Echols said. "It will take a team response from the entire state."