Tornado bill

Rep. Crosswhite-Hader proposes legislation to help travelers respond during tornado warnings

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State Rep. Denise Crosswhite-Hader

By Carol Mowdy Bond

Contributing Writer

The Sooner State sits in the heart of Tornado Alley. That sometimes creates problems for travelers in Oklahoma.

In fact, an email prompted District 41 State Rep. Denise Crosswhite-Hader, R-Yukon, to draft weather-related legislation for the upcoming legislative session.

Part of the email message reads, “Because Oklahoma has a significant number of tornadoes, and because many people who are traveling, especially from out of state, will not know where to go or what to do, I think it’s imperative that all  hotels and motels in Oklahoma be required to post tornado safety information on the back of hotel and motel room doors in the same manner that fire exit information is posted. I’ve never been in a hotel room during a fire.

“Twice I’ve been in a hotel room during a tornado warning. The second one was in Woodward, OK. I had the TV on but muted, working on a project. When I looked up, there was a state map in the corner of the TV screen with one county in red, but there was no text telling what county it was or why it was in red. From my hotel window the skies were blue.”

The email continues, saying that the traveler wasn’t fully aware of the location of the hotel as compared to the state map, nor did the traveler know the shape of the county in which the hotel was located.

So, the traveler kept working, but later looked up to see a TV message telling that Woodward County was under a tornado warning.

The traveler went to the front desk and asked what to do and where to go. The hotel employee at the desk did not know.

“Many people ask where legislation comes from,” Rep. Crosswhite-Hader said. “This is a perfect example of a constituent seeing a problem and suggesting a solution. This bill actually came from an idea of a constituent in Piedmont.

“Hotels are required to put information on room doors for fire safety. This would add information for tornado warnings. This legislation would not add regulations to existing hotels. It would be for new construction. Existing construction would have to update as they update fire safety information.”

Rep. Crosswhite-Hader explained that the instructions for the Department of Health for this proposed legislation include:

“At the minimum, the tornado safety information shall list the county the hotel is in, the hotel’s location on a state map, information regarding what a hotel guest should do to stay safe during a tornado.”

She continued, saying that the last line reads, “And, if applicable, the day and time of community tornado siren testing.”

Referring to that last line, Crosswhite-Hader said that part of the suggested change actually came from discussions in the monthly Yukon Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast on Jan. 7.

“At this time, we are still waiting on final drafts of our bills,” she said. “We don’t have bill numbers yet. Deadline is Thursday, Jan. 16, at 4 p.m. I will have bill numbers Thursday at 4 p.m.”

Rep. Crosswhite-Hader is still working on a bill that responds to problematic issues related to self-defense with a firearm.

“It will be called Defensive Display,” the state lawmaker said.