"How the Building Industry Blocked Better Tornado Safeguards"

"Engineers know how to protect people from tornadoes like the ones that recently devastated parts of Kentucky, but builders have headed off efforts to toughen standards."

"WASHINGTON — After a tornado killed 162 people in Joplin, Mo., safety experts and cement manufacturers proposed a way to save lives: Require most new apartments, commercial structures and other large buildings in tornado-prone areas to have safe rooms — concrete boxes where people can shelter, even if the building around them is torn to shreds.

Safe rooms provide “near-absolute protection” during a tornado, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They can cost as little as $15,000 for a small shelter in a commercial building, and possibly could have saved the six workers who died when a tornado destroyed the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Ill., two weeks ago.

But the 2012 proposal was blocked by a little-known organization that sets the building codes widely used by states and cities around the country. That group, the International Code Council, is made up of state and local code officials from around the country. Before it could vote, the proposal was scrapped by a council committee made up of building industry representatives and local code officials. The committee found the 2012 safe room proposal to be “overly restrictive and contained several technical flaws.”"

Christopher Flavelle reports for the New York Times December 22, 2021.

Source: NYTimes, 12/23/2021