Xenia, OH -- In the wake of the deadly tornado that struck Ohio last month, officials from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (OEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are urging residents of tornado-prone areas to construct a "safe room" in their home.
A "safe room" is essentially a roomy closet built to withstand extreme wind hazards such as tornadoes. A safe room can be constructed either above or below ground with either reinforced concrete or wood-and-steel walls anchored to a concrete slab foundation or floor. Safe room designs draw on 25 years of field research, as well as laboratory testing.
To assist local builders and homeowners in building such rooms, two presentations by safe shelter specialist Dr. Ernst Kiesling have been scheduled for Thursday, October 5 in Xenia. Both presentations will be held in the Greene County Media Room of the Xenia Human Services Center at 541 Ledbetter Road. They are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and will be free and open to the public.
Dr. Kiesling, a professor of engineering at Texas Tech University, is the country's foremost expert on tornado safe rooms. His presentation will focus on the latest developments in wind resistant building techniques as they relate to safe room construction. He was also a member of the design team instrumental in writing the FEMA publication, "Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House." Copies may be obtained by calling FEMA's toll-free publication number, 800-480-2520, or visiting the FEMA website at www.fema.gov.
Homeowners, business owners, architects, builders, elected officials, emergency managers and others interested in learning about reducing the impact of windstorms are urged to attend one of the Thursday presentations. "Dr. Kiesling's sessions will be appropriate for all types of construction, from small 'do-it-yourself' projects to multi-level commercial and public buildings," FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Lou Botta said. "The safe room project is part of an ongoing FEMA initiative called Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities."
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest disaster loans that may include funds for constructing safe rooms in storm-damaged homes being rebuilt or repaired. Safe rooms built to the FEMA design specification provide protection from the impact of flying debris and winds up to 250 miles per hour.
Construction costs typically range from $2,000 to $4,000, depending upon the specific design, materials, and construction costs in your area. "With or without government funding, a safe room is a smart idea for any family or business to help reduce future disaster losses," State Coordinating Officer Dale Shipley said.
Residents who have applied for disaster assistance will also be able to discuss ways to reduce future disaster damages, such as safe rooms, with mitigation specialists at the Disaster Recovery Center. The center will open tomorrow (Wednesday, October 4) and be located on the second floor of the Juvenile Court Building at 61 Greene Rd. in downtown Xenia. The temporary center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday.
A safe room mock-up and information about wind resistant construction techniques will be available at several local businesses in the coming weeks. Recovery specialists will be available to answer questions about common sense ways to rebuild better and safer. The display schedule will be announced when the details have been finalized.