September 19, 2012 (Independence, IA) – Junior/Senior High School students in the Independence Community School District (ICSD) will soon benefit from the first ever FEMA “safe room” in Buchanan County.
The school district recently received news approving the use of FEMA grant dollars to construct a community safe room at the new Jr./Sr. High School. The project has been awarded a total of $831,064 ($733,292 in Federal funds and $97,772 in State funds). Superintendent Russell Reiter said, “Applying for this FEMA Grant has been a very long, detailed process for us. To hear we have been awarded these funds now to build a Safe Room in the new Jr/Sr High School is fantastic. It is reassuring to have a structure like this within our new facility which will keep our students and staff safe.”
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. While this is the first community safe room in Buchanan County, it is not unusual to have one hosted in a school building. Linda Roose from Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management said, “There are approximately 66 approved safe room grants in Iowa and 38 of these are in schools. The school, with the assistance of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division, was successful in obtaining the Hazard Mitigation Grant (HMGP) for the purpose of building a tornado safe room in the school to the criteria found in FEMA’s publication FEMA 361 2nd edition Design and Construction Guidance for Community Safe Rooms.” Brad Simonson, President of HSR Associates, added, “The dedication, patience and hard work by the school district administration and school board members for this safe room grant has come to fruition and will now benefit the entire Independence Community School District”.
The locker rooms at the Jr./Sr. High School are being designed to serve their day-to-day purposes, but also as a safe room during severe weather. “The room will be able to accommodate all students and staff during school days and can also be used in the event of severe weather during tournaments or other events hosted at the facility. This makes the new facility that much more valuable”, said Rick Wulfekuhle, Buchanan County EMA Coordinator.
The overall design of this facility’s safe room 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. “The design and review process for this safe room has been very extensive with several reviews of our work being done by a variety of professionals”, added Bob Freerks of HSR Associates. Construction of the safe room will include 8” thick reinforced concrete walls with an insulated cavity and face brick exterior. The roof of the safe room will be made of 12” thick reinforced concrete with tapered roof insulation and adhered membrane roofing. A 31kva emergency generator will be used as the back-up power source to handle lighting and the air handling system. The generator will be protected to the same degree as the rest of the safe room.
The selection of the locker rooms as the safe room location is helping in the design process. “There are no exterior windows in the locker rooms, but there are multiple exits to the corridor from the locker room suite. This makes it a perfect location for the safe room area”, Freerks said.
“We are very pleased to be able to offer the first-ever safe room in Buchanan County”, said Board President Brian Eddy. “One of the benefits of the new JR / SR high school was the incorporation of this safe room, so we are excited to be able to accomplish this exceptional feature in this new facility”.
More information regarding the new Jr./Sr. High School project can be found on the district’s website at www.indee.k12.ia.us. You may also contact Superintendent Peterson with any questions at (319) 334-7400.
Jenny Yoder, Fusion Forward