Final Report on Joplin Tornado Highlights Communication, Building Standards

April 2, 2014

A federal agency’s final report about its technical investigation into the 2011 Joplin tornado calls for nationally accepted standards for building design and construction, and public shelters and emergency communications that the group says can significantly reduce tornado deaths.

The final report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology was released on March 28 and doesn’t alter any of the investigation’s major findings or its recommendations released in November, The Joplin Globe reported.

NIST lead investigator Marc Levitan said, however, the final report is strengthened by clarifications and supplements suggested in response to the draft report about the May 2011 Joplin tornado that killed 161 people and destroyed thousands of buildings.

The most severe damage caused by the EF5 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., on May 22, 2011, occurred on flat terrain or when the tornado was moving uphill.

NIST has begun the “long and arduous process” of converting the recommendations into new codes and standards for building tornado-resistant structures, Levitan said.

“New codes are adopted in three- to six-year cycles,” he said. “You propose the changes. It’s reviewed by a committee and from there goes out for public comment. We have to be inclusive and make sure that people have the chance to comment on things that affect everybody.”

The study recommends “the development and implementation of uniform national guidelines that enable communities to create the safest and most effective public sheltering strategies. The guidelines should address planning for, siting, designing, installing, and operating public tornado shelters within the community,” the report said.

The city of Joplin, which did not officially comment on the report, released a statement on some of the study’s conclusions, including the institute’s recommendations on public shelters.

The city said it is encouraging the building of shelters for personal protection, regardless of the facility – whether it’s home, business, work, school, place of worship or some public venue.

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Topics Catastrophe Natural Disasters Windstorm

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