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In 3 years since Moore tornado, storm shelters becoming the norm at Oklahoma schools

Construction of a storm shelter at an area school, in this picture taken May 20, 2016./KTUL
Construction of a storm shelter at an area school, in this picture taken May 20, 2016./KTUL
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TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) - Friday marks the three-year anniversary of a deadly tornado that swept through Moore, Okla.

The storm made a destructive path through an elementary school, killing seven students. Districts across the country have used the devastation as a lesson to build storm shelters and safe rooms to better protect their students.

Emergency manager Bob Roberts with Tulsa Public Schools said bond money is currently being used to construct 20 safe rooms throughout the district. They're expected to shelter up to 20,000 students.

Robertson said all buildings in the district are already secure for storms, but the safe rooms are an extra precaution.

"We have to be prepared for every eventuality. It's not just a question of building the safe rooms, it's a question of training the staff and the administrators to handle it well," said Robertson. "With the new bond issue, and even a little bit with the 2010 bond issue, we started putting safe rooms to meet the needs of the FEMA 361 standards. So it raised that notch just a little bit."

Stephanie Matthis has three young children in Owasso schools and said she's not aware of a storm shelter for the district. The tornado that ripped through Moore was far from her family, but Matthis said the same destruction could hit anywhere.

"It's very devastating to know that so many children could have something horrible happen like that to them. I wouldn't want anything to happen to my kids," said Matthis.

Several districts are taking extra precautions to better prepare for severe weather. Construction of a monolithic dome for Catoosa Public Schools is expected to be complete by June. The domes are said to be the most secure during a tornado.

Henryetta Public Schools is building two storm shelters. One is about 30-percent done and expected to be complete by Christmas. Both shelters should be ready for use by the 2017 severe weather season.

Robertson said every TPS school has access to a safe place during a storm. The safe rooms will be built over the next five years.

"We have done everything in our power to make sure we've got the safest places. And I bring a lot of experience in finding those places. And I can tell you I have grandkids in Tulsa Public Schools, I am very comfortable with the places we have for the kids to go," said Robertson.

So far four safe rooms have been installed throughout TPS.

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