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Tornado Shelter Buddy System

EF-5 tornado caused significant damage in Joplin last May
EF-5 tornado caused significant damage in Joplin last May

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

March 16, 2012 — After experiencing the destruction from the Joplin, Missouri tornado first hand, one woman is working to help people find shelter when severe weather strikes.

Tornadoes can be deadly and destructive, do you have a plan?
Tornadoes can be deadly and destructive, do you have a plan?

Cassie Coleman lived through the EF-5 tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri last year. Now as the severe storm season kicks into high gear, Coleman is using social media to reach out to others.

"My main goal is to help raise awareness when it comes to these deadly storms and to help everyone find safe places to go who don't already have one."

Earlier this month, Coleman created a page on Facebook called the Tornado Shelter Buddy System, which she hopes will serve as a landing page for people who don't know where to go, what to do or who to be with when a tornado tears through.

"This will not only help everyone live through these events, but will also give a peace of mind in knowing that their plan can help save their lives," Coleman told The Weather Network.

Storm chasers were just outside Joplin when the tornado hit last May. Within minutes, the group encountered "absolute chaos" -- trees downed, tractors trailers in the ditch, and injured drivers in need of help.

"A mile-wide wedge tornado that could have just hit forest, instead went right through the urban area in Joplin," says Chris Scott a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

A buddy system could help save lives
A buddy system could help save lives

Coleman says her home was one of many that was reduced to just a foundation and her husband was the only one home at the time.

"My entire family lived through the tornado on May 22, 2011. It was the worst event of my life and it's inspired me to help others. In my home that I had, there was no place to hide. Not once did I feel safe in that house when it came to a tornado and by the grace of God, my husband lived by hiding in my son's closet."

After this close encounter and being a teacher for several years, Coleman says an idea to create a buddy system (for when violent storms hit) was born.

"The buddy system is for more than just kids, we all could use a buddy to help us when we need it...The idea is to connect people with others in their area who have a stable storm shelter...I want to make sure that if there isn't a personal shelter to buddy up with, that everyone know exactly where the shelters are in their area."

Over 120 people have joined the group since it was created.

"And while I would love to see my page in the thousands, I am perfectly happy with the 100 I have," says Coleman. "That means 100+ lives will be saved, will have less stress and will be better aware of what to do in the event of a tornado."

Coleman adds that if she wasn't able to get a hold of her neighbour to wake up her husband and tell him to hide, then he likely wouldn't still be here today.

"A Tornado Shelter Buddy System will save lives."

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