FDIC 2012: Disaster in Joplin


Sagamore 1-3 played host to Thursday afternoon’s Big Room Session, where FDIC 2012 students were brought up close and personal to the aftermath that was the EF-5 rated tornado which struck Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011, killing. Joplin (MO) Fire Department Deputy Chief Jim Perkins took the podium to give all attendees his first-hand account of the destruction that he witnessed that day.

“Nobody plans for this. How many of you expect an F-5 tornado to come through your town?” Perkins asked the audience as he began.

Before diving into the heart of the story, Perkins gave an overview of the city of Joplin along with its vitals and census figures. He also detailed the top tornado risk areas throughout the United States and to give students an idea of the possibility of them having to deal with a tornado incident.

“At 1741 hours, we actually had the tornado touch down,” said Perkins.

Perkin’s then showed video of the very tornado that ripped through the town (taken by some local storm chasers), which began life as three violent vortices, then moments later combined to form one massive funnel that would later slow down to around 10 miles per hour—a slow speed for such a storm.

Watch video of the tornado below.


According to Perkins, the damage from the tornado included the following losses:

  • 8,000 structures destroyed
  • 2 fire stations w/5 apparatus
  • 3 big box stores
  • 2 nursing facilities
  • St. John’s Hospital
  • 8 school district facilities

Perkins explained the fire department response to the incident; he said that its presence was borne more out of giving the community a sense of security rather than for actual aid.

Perkins described the response: “We’ve been through all of these natural disasters before, ice storms, wind storms, tornados, wind events. Our response plan was fairly straightforward, fairly simple. We placed an additional dispatcher to handle the onslaught. A second chief officer is supposed to come in to help prioritize what we’re doing.”

“The magnitude of this storm was so significantly different than anything we’ve ever dealt with in the past that it took us a while to figure this out.”    

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