Agency's final report on Joplin tornado calls for national standards

Saturday, March 29, 2014 | 7:27 p.m. CDT

JOPLIN — 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, as well as 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 Friday 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, that 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.

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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