Mom of tornado victim fights for workers’ shelters

EDWARDSVILLE, Illinois — Carla Cope was cooking and monitoring the weather reports on December 10, 2021 when she and her husband called their son Clayton to warn him of an upcoming tornado.

“We were the ones who told him there was a tornado coming and he had to go to a shelter,” Cope said.

Clayton Cope was one of six people killed when a tornado made landfall in Edwardsville and struck the Amazon warehouse where he worked. Clayton was 29.

She leaves Clayton’s jacket and hat from his naval service hanging in plain view. Service was in his blood. In the last 12 months she is learned that her son was trying to get colleagues to safety. But there was no safe room or storm shelter. Building codes do not require them.

“Hopefully they change the way they build these buildings,” she said.

Lawmakers toured the site in February to discuss improving building safety codes, but then the City of Edwardsville acknowledged that rebuilding the warehouse using the same wall construction with the wall sloping up went ahead with no apparent major changes.

Now the camp seems to be almost completely rebuilt. Amazon points out that there is only one “tenant in the building and that the landlord is responsible for the conversion”.

“It’s everyone; not only amazon. All storage buildings are built the same,” Cope said. “They are all at the same risk.”

The National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) video shows the dramatic difference a storm shelter makes. Their test video shows how a reinforced storm shield withstands a 2×4 vehicle flying at 100 mph. The association compares this with what happens without storm protection reinforcements.

“It’s such a small price to pay for them to add it,” Cope said. “I don’t understand why they wouldn’t do it.”

The NSSA estimates that adding a storm screen would add 1% to the overall construction cost.

Illinois State Rep. Katie Stuart has been pushing for building code updates, writing to FOX 2: “I’m still working through the legislative process to establish a task force to study building codes and safety requirements and make recommendations for updates… Illinois should lead and A role model for safe working conditions.”

Amazon says it is increasing manager training drills, frequency of drills, and adjusting location-based weather contingency plans for its more than 800 North American warehouses.

Meanwhile, Amazon and the construction companies are also the target of several lawsuits. Chicago law firm Clifford said it was in the process of deposing a dozen company officials to get more answers. Mom of tornado victim fights for workers’ shelters

Sarah Y. Kim

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