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OU amid coronavirus: University limits access to storm shelters on campus

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Storm Shelters (copy)

The storm shelters outside of Walker Center, pictured on April 10, 2017.

OU announced changes to its severe weather shelter areas Wednesday, the same day that saw at least seven people killed by tornadoes and storms in southern Oklahoma and surrounding states.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, university officials are advising those who are not OU students, faculty or staff to begin making home safety preparations in the event of severe weather, even if they have used OU storm shelters in the past. 

Access to university buildings will remain restricted as a continued social distancing precaution to “mitigate the risk of COVID-19 to the campus community,” according to an April 22 Inside OU article. Severe weather refuge areas will only be accessible by those with a valid OU ID, as each shelter will require a card swipe to enter.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped nearly all aspects of everyday life, and in Oklahoma, that includes severe weather preparations,” university officials wrote in the article. “During tornado threats, the University of Oklahoma will take as many precautions as possible to provide refuge for the reduced number of students, faculty and staff remaining on campus.”

Students currently living on campus with a valid OU ID will still be able to access storm shelters in their residential buildings, according to the updated spring 2020 tornado shelter policy, but they are encouraged to continue practicing proper social distancing while in the shelters.

Students living off campus with a valid OU ID are still permitted to access the Couch and Walker Center storm shelters, according to the policy. The tornado shelter policy suggests off-campus students prepare at-home severe weather plans as a precaution and use on-campus shelters only if they are able to arrive at the shelter “well in advance” of severe weather conditions.

Non-students or students living off campus are “highly encouraged” to create an in-home severe weather shelter plan, according to the policy. The policy advises the “get in, get down, cover up” policy — locate a deep interior area of the home and use couch cushions, blankets and sports helmets if available to protect from flying debris.

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