Oklahoma Tornado: Bank Vault Saves 22 People From Storm's Destruction (PHOTOS)

05/22/2013 12:02 pm ET | Updated May 23, 2013

As search-and-rescue teams continue to sift through the rubble to ensure all survivors have been accounted for, 22 Moore residents, who took cover in a bank vault during the Oklahoma tornado, have their local credit union to thank for providing shelter during the destructive storm.

According to a statement released on the Tinker Federal Credit Union's (TFCU) website, 14 employees and eight credit union members huddled in the branch's vault during the storm Monday afternoon. First responders released the quick-thinking survivors, unharmed, shortly after the storm dissipated. TFCU also notes that the bank employees were "following established safety procedures."

Though the two-mile-wide tornado devastated the city and appeared to nearly level the bank, the vault remained intact and protected the tornado survivors from the effects of the storm.

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tornado bank vault

Survivors took cover from the tornado by riding out the storm in this bank vault in Moore, Okla. (Photo courtesy of Tinker Federal Credit Union)

"I was one of the members in the vault yesterday," Dena Clark wrote on TFCU's Facebook page. "You all should be so proud of your employees! Everyone, especially Jan the branch manager, acted so heroically to keep everyone safe. I am so thankful! Our family loves TFCU!"

Another Oklahoma resident, whose mother apparently works at the credit union, posted a photo of the survivors leaving the vault after the tornado.

While a bank vault is hardly a conventional storm shelter, the safes -- typically made of reinforced steel and concrete -- are known to be used for storm safety in times of emergency.

During a March 2012 tornado in Kentucky, David Ison and nine others were in a bank parking lot when they saw the twister coming. So, to protect themselves, the storm survivors ran to the bank's vault and locked themselves in.

Though bank vaults may do in a pinch, without a supply of storm essentials and a protected ventilation system, the reinforced rooms do not meet FEMA's federal safe room guidelines.

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