On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved a measure which would encourage more public facilities to open their doors to the public during natural disasters. Senate Bill 1316, by Sen. Ron Justice, would modify the Governmental Tort Claims Act by adding an exemption from liability for cities, towns, counties or other entities that open public buildings up to citizens during emergencies like tornadoes.
“Oklahoma is no stranger to natural disasters, especially tornadoes, and many families don’t have shelters at their homes so they’ll go to schools, churches or other public buildings looking for shelter,” said Justice, R-Chickasha. “Many of these facilities, however, won’t open their doors to the public because of fear of lawsuits should anything happen to the individuals. This bill will protect these public facilities from lawsuits and provide more safe places for Oklahoma families during emergencies.”
Justice noted that the bill does not require public facilities to be opened during emergencies. It is still up to each entity whether to open their doors to the public during such events, but if they choose to let the public in they will not be held liable if someone gets injured or they have to turn anyone away because of lack of space.
SB 1316 will now head to the House for further consideration in committee.