Tupelo, MS -- Individuals and business owners in Lowndes County can get a first-hand look at a tornado "safe room" March 15 - 18, in an exhibit stationed at Lowe's Home Improvement Center, 2320 Hwy. 45 N. The exhibit will be available for viewing daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
A safe room is a shelter built into your house to provide protection from tornadoes and other extreme windstorms. The special room on display measures 4' deep by 6' wide by 7' tall.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) specialists will accompany the exhibit. The team will provide detailed information on building safe rooms, which are steel-built, storm-resistant rooms designed to withstand high-force winds. A FEMA publication, "Taking Shelter From The Storm," will be available.
On a normal day, a safe room can double as a typical bathroom or closet, with one exception: This particular bathroom or closet is enclosed behind a steel door.
In the event of a tornado or some other disaster, the room can provide quick shelter for the family. A safe room is similar to a vault and should resist wind speeds approaching 250 miles per hour.
To build a safe room into an existing house, a homeowner would need to retrofit, or restructure, a room or closet, framing the room in materials such as plywood, concrete and steel, and bolting the walls more rigidly into the ground.
Leon Shaifer, the state official in charge of disaster recovery, said, "We hope tornado victims who are rebuilding their homes will include a safe room in the new design. Building a safe room inside a new home costs only about $2,000. The cost of retrofitting an existing structure is about $3,000. This is a great investment in providing family protection."
FEMA, in coordination with Texas Tech University, developed a booklet of designs for safe rooms. Most homebuilders don't have a great deal of experience with safe room designs, but the detailed diagrams should be simple to follow.
John D. Hannah, the federal official in charge of disaster recovery, said, "FEMA and Texas Tech researchers tested the design extensively under laboratory conditions." He added, "In addition to construction of a safe room, FEMA urges citizens in disaster-prone areas to develop action plans for disasters and consider purchasing a weather radio, which sounds an alarm when severe weather strikes."