Few Iowa schools are equipped with a structure deemed by the federal government to provide “near-absolute protection” in a tornado.
Thirty-seven of Iowa’s 1,400 public school buildings include safe rooms, with most built in the last five years, state data show. The buildings provide 6 percent of Iowa’s preschool-through-12th-grade students access to safe rooms during the school day.
The numbers echo national statistics. But following the May 20 Moore, Okla., tornado that demolished two elementary schools and killed seven students, some parents and local school leaders in storm-prone Iowa are pushing for greater protection.
Safe rooms are designed according to standards developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They can withstand wind gusts of up to 250 mph and resist the impact of a 15-pound 2-by-4 board traveling horizontally at 100 miles per hour.