Throughout the Midwest, school systems are increasing their investment in sever weather sheltering and safety. The frequent threat of tornadoes in this region calls for extra attention from school administrators and safety professionals.
Schools Investing in Severe Weather Safe Rooms
In Jefferson City, MO, Joplin School District has built 14 safe rooms over the past 10 years. This push was in response to a deadly tornado that killed 161 people in 2011. The new safe rooms are built to protect not only students, but also community members from future severe weather emergencies.
These rooms are constructed specifically to meet FEMA guidelines. The protection they provide against event the most powerful storms is nearly absolute. With reinforced concrete walls and roofs the rooms are extremely resistant to any type of impact and can withstand winds of up to 250 mph. The shelters are located throughout the school buildings and can be accessed easily an quickly by occupants.
Utilizing Safe Rooms on Blue Sky Days
In a 2019 press release from FEMA, Joplin School District Asst. Superintendent of Operations Dr. Kerry Sachetta states, “our safe rooms are used as gyms, an office area, a television production studio, wrestling room, an industry tech classroom and a locker room” on the average school day. When the National Weather Service issues a warning, or a tornado touches down in a neighboring area, the school opens the safe rooms to the public for those with no where else to go.
Funding and Grants for Severe Weather Safe Rooms
FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grants Program or the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program can help with funding for safe rooms at your school. FEMA will pay for 75 percent of the cost of construction, and schools can apply through their State Hazard Mitigation Officer.