MOORE, Okla. -- With its single-story design and cinder-block walls, Plaza Towers Elementary School may have seemed sturdy when it was built a couple of generations ago. But a powerful tornado revealed the building's lack of modern safety standards, destroying the school and killing seven students.
Unlike several other schools in the Oklahoma City area, Plaza Towers had no "safe room" in which students and teachers could seek protection from a twister.
The federal government offers money to schools in some states if they decide to install the reinforced rooms. But doing so can still be a daunting financial decision, requiring up to a $1 million for a single storm shelter that might never be needed. That dollars-and-cents reality has resulted in a patchwork of protection in tornado-prone areas -- sometimes with tragic results.
In response to the tornado that plowed through Moore, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced Wednesday the creation of a state fund to accept donations for the construction of safe rooms, which are fortified by deep foundations, thick concrete walls and steel doors designed to withstand winds of 250 mph.