While emergency plans are in place for severe weather, AIDB’s leadership recognized the need for adequate safe rooms for their students, clients and staff and began the process of applying for three separate federal grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation program.
AIDB received official notification this week from the state EMA that all three projects for safe rooms submitted were approved by FEMA in the amount of $507,821 each, with the federal share of $380,866 each or a total award of more than $1.14 million.
AIDB will be responsible for 25 percent of the total building costs of each 300-person community safe room or approximately $127,000 per project.
Safe rooms will be constructed on the campuses of Alabama School for the Blind, Helen Keller School of Alabama and E.H. Gentry Technical Facility.
AIDB prioritized its applications for safe rooms based on vulnerability and the current status of shelter and safe room facilities on its campuses. Efforts will continue to expand shelter facilities on Alabama School for the Deaf and Industries for the Blind campuses.
“We are elated by this news because the safety and security of our students is a very high priority for us,” AIDB President Terry Graham said.
“Applying for the three FEMA grants has been a very long, detailed process. To hear that FEMA and the EMA both recognized the need for these safe rooms on our campuses is indeed encouraging. While we cannot stop tornadoes, it is reassuring to have structures like this, which can keep our deaf, blind and multi-disabled students, clients and staff safe.”
Graham said he felt that the deadly wave of tornado-spawning storms on April 27, 2011, that destroyed complete towns and resulted in the loss of so many lives served as a wake-up call.
“It is a day that none of us will ever forget in our lifetime,” Graham said. “We watched all that day as deadly tornadoes destroyed lives and property all over our state. Two AIDB pre-schoolers were snatched from their grandmother’s arms and killed in Tuscaloosa. Then that evening, I was horrified when James Spann gave a tornado warning for Talladega County and advised that Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind should be in our safe place. I can only imagine the devastation that could occur if a tornado made a direct hit on our campuses, which are so densely located and populated. We knew that we had to take every precaution possible to protect our students from such a disaster.”
The FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant program provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration.
A safe room, as defined by FEMA, is a hardened structure specifically designed to meet FEMA criteria and provide “near-absolute” protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes.
The overall design of each of the safe rooms will meet all FEMA requirements including the ability to withstand wind speeds of up to 250 mph.
Wind speeds at that level are typically associated with EF5 tornadoes which can cause damage to reinforced concrete structures, produce automobile-sized missiles, and remove bark from trees.
All three projects are scheduled to begin within 90 days.
“We appreciate the support and encouragement of Congressman Mike Rogers and Sen. Jeff Sessions during this application and approval process,” Graham said.
“It is imperative that everyone in our community be prepared to react quickly during threatening weather events, but it is an especially critical issue for children and adults with special needs and for our staff who must act quickly to ensure that our students and clients are in as safe an environment as possible. I am grateful for the understanding and support expressed by Congressman Rogers and Sen. Sessions for this project.”
Contact Aziza Jackson at email@example.com.