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Tornado season keeps DCCC inmates busy building steel storm shelters

Monday, March 04, 2019

DEL CITY, Okla – Springtime in Oklahoma can be ominous and unpredictable. Oklahoma City metro has been hit by a staggering 100 tornadoes since recording began in 1893.

Jonathan Diaz recently moved to tornado alley and his first order of business was to purchase peace of mind -- a storm shelter for his Del City home. Diaz said, “When I moved to Oklahoma City I thought there would be a tornado every year. I decided to make this investment, hoping it will one day save my life.”

His solid steel bunker can withstand Mother Nature’s absolute worst – an EF-5 tornado.

It may surprise you to learn, these heavy duty steel tornado shelters are manufactured by Department of Corrections inmates. OCI Coordinator, Joey Barnes said, “Oh we’ve made thousands. Thousands. That’s thousands of lives saved.”

OCI Operations Coordinator, Alex Lunn said, “These guys have a lot of compassion, maybe because it’s been shown to them. They have a lot of compassion. The whole idea they might be saving a family has value to them too.”

The sprawling metal fabrication factory is behind the wire at Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy.

The underground and above ground shelters exceed FEMA engineering standards. According to Barnes, “I require a higher standard than the weld test guy will. I want to make sure they pass.”

Inmates feel valued and master a worthy trade. Diaz said, ”They are actually contributing to my safety and so I’m totally for it.”

And folks like Jonathan Diaz can feel considerably safer, the next time Mother Nature strikes.

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