Ex-fire chief raised safety concerns

JOPLIN, Mo. | When former Joplin Fire Chief Gary Trulson arrived here in 2004, one of the first things he noticed while looking for a home was that Joplin had very few basements.

“That intrigued me and concerned me,” Trulson said in a recent interview.

Three years later, in 2007, Trulson wrote a report that, in hindsight at least, seems to have predicted this city’s tragic future.

Entitled “Safe Rooms, Providing Shelter in the Storm for Joplin Residents,” Trulson noted that even though Joplin lies squarely within tornado alley, it has few safe areas for residents to go in storms.

He also pointed out that there had been 34 tornadoes in Jasper County between 1950 and 2003, injuring 212 people and killing 11.

Trulson suggested in his report, done for the National Fire Academy, that there should be an area-wide initiative to make residents and homebuilders aware of the problem and to do something about it.

Joplin does not currently require shelters in homes or businesses.

The report was not formally submitted to city officials, Trulson said, but it was incorporated into the city’s emergency management public education plan.

Trulson, who left Joplin last year for a teaching job in Wisconsin, said he didn’t think the report had much effect at the time.

“I feel bad that we couldn’t get something going before I left,” he said. “They had such a devastating storm that hopefully everyone in the nation will learn from this.”

For information on building a safe room, go to http://www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/saferoom/index.shtm.