Keeping track of the storm shelters and safe rooms in Maumelle was one of the biggest lessons from Sunday’s nearby tornado, Maumelle fire chief John Payne said.

With the devastation that Sunday’s tornado caused, Payne said it was difficult to tell where homes had been in some cases and that debris covered a few storm shelters.

A registry could mean the difference between life and death for a homeowner if their location were obscured and it takes more precious moments to locate a possible injured person.

Payne said he is asking all Maumelle homeowners who currently have a safe house or storm shelter to come forward and report the location at either Maumelle Fire Department station.

He said the registry will give firefighters advanced information so when they pull up on a site they’ll know exactly where to begin a search if necessary.

After witnessing the intensity of this last tornado the Maumelle Fire Chief said he’s convinced the rooms save lives if they are constructed correctly. He noted the department will encourage storm shelters that can double as safe rooms in Maumelle.

The state encourages the construction of these rooms that are eligible for a $1,000 grant from the state if constructed correctly, Payne said. It has been higher in past years, he said, but so many Arkansans took advantage of it the state ran out of money last year.

One shelter he ran across this week was built into a garage and uses a vehicles axles for stabilization. He does not think that type of shelter is safe, Payne said.

Firefighters will come out, examine and certify the shelters if they meet the state’s requirements, he said.

— Bill Lawson