Storm Shelter Permit: Attempt the first — FAIL

This morning I made my first attempt to get the storm shelter permit/.

Letter from an engineer regarding the boyancy of the shelter (i.e. guaranteeing it won’t float out of the ground — CHECK!

Letter from an engineer certifying that the shelter is designed to meet or exceed the structural strength necessary to resist the combined load of concrete and soil plus 100 pounds/square foot load line, thus complying with the state’s storm shelter code — CHECK!

Letter from an engineer certifying that the shelter is designed to comply with FEMA shelter standards — OOPS!  I did have a letter from an engineer that states —

. . . The design for the construction of the storm shelters meets and or exceeds the FEMA Design Requirements or Standards.
Therefore, it is the opinion of this engineer that the construction and installation per theinstallation instructions should be considered appropriate for use in Oklahoma.

Alas, that wasn’t good enough.  The engineer should have stated which FEMA standard this design meets or exceeds.  My thought is — “Good grief folks, it is a structural steel shelter encased in six inches of concrete buried in the ground with a foot of dirt on the top.” What part of “this storm shelter works” does the City not understand?  If the engineer says it meets the FEMA statistics, what does it matter if an additional bureaucratic note of the identifying number of the standard?

At least I didn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes and the lady was nice and said she would call me when the contractor faxes her the proper document and I would not have to make a second trip downtown.  So they have learned something since my last attempt at getting a permit from that office which involved THREE trips downtown because I was given THREE different demands for info.  There would have been a fourth if I hadn’t made a scene and a supervisor came out who determined that my original app was sufficient and the other two trips were not necessary because I was given bad info by the staff.

It is beyond my comprehension why there isn’t some sort of expedited system for tornado shelter applications.  We don’t have anything much in the way of public tornado shelters. As far as OKC government is concerned, everyone is On Their Own when the funnel clouds bear down on the City.  Thus, it seems to me that they should make it as easy as possible to get this permit.  I don’t understand why I even had to go downtown.

  • There are special permits to install a pool, fences and signs, but not shelter. For a shelter, I had to fill out the same form you would if had built a house. It asks “prior use of the area,” I wrote in “container garden”. I hope that info was informative and useful to them. Why not have a shelter permit?
  • There are FAXABLE (!!!!!!!) permits for electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work (and I think that is a good thing), but why not a faxable permit for storm shelters? I had to drive downtown, pay two dollars for parking. OK, I got to admire the new PARKING garage the city is building for God-Only-Knows how much money across the street (gotta keep those tax subsidies rolling for the cars you know), but still, it was  a waste of time and two dollars.

All in all, I am not persuaded that anything about this process really serves the common good. It just seems like bureaucratic make-work.   Oh, and let’s not forget Ka-Ching, the sound of the City’s cash register picking my pocket for (near as I can tell from the City’s website) $55 for the permit fee.

I suppose if this were the worst thing to happen to me this year, I’d be making out pretty much like phat rat.  But the part of me that strives for excellence wonders why Oklahoma City doesn’t analyze all of its rules and regulations and make some determination as to what actually is necessary and what isn’t.

For example, why not have the shelter contractors register with the city and provide the details for their plans?  Then, if a homeowner is using a City approved plan, there would be no need for a permit. The common good need — ensuring that shelters are adequate to the demands of the storm — is met, and much bureaucratic make-work and citizen annoyance is avoided.

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