After the storm: Safe rooms need to be mandated in perilous places

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Nearly a week after a huge tornado devastated Moore, Okla., and parts of nearby Oklahoma City, the prayers and concern for the living and the dead rightly make room for thoughts for the future.

As always in times of disaster, the humanitarian response of the American people was heart-warming. But the heart must now heed the head. There are obvious lessons that need to be taken if the wells of sympathy are not to be depleted.

Some 24 people were killed by the tornado, including seven 8- and 9-year-old students at Moore's Plaza Elementary School -- a school that had no safe room, just as most of the 1,200 homes damaged and destroyed did not. That is stupid to the point of scandalous.

Oklahoma is situated in Tornado Alley and people are accustomed to the danger. According to the National Weather Service, Moore and its environs have seen at least 22 tornadoes killing more than 100 people since 1893.

The state is conservative and fear of overreaching government power is part of the culture. That's fine as far as it goes, but it goes only as far as it affects other Americans whose tax dollars go to help places like Moore recover.

It rankles that Oklahoma's U.S. senators, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, have voted against federal funding for other disaster relief, including for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Yes, they had their reasons -- concerns for wasteful federal spending and deficits -- but a day of reckoning comes for ingrate behavior. In Moore, it came in a terrifying funnel cloud.

Political ideology should have been blown away in this storm. State and local governments in areas at risk should insist on safe rooms, at least in all new construction. The cost might be high, but so is the cost of repetitive tragedy. It is said that God helps those who help themselves; federal aid ought to be predicated on it.

opinion_editorials


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