BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Temporary facilities are greeting students as the school year begins in four Alabama communities. And safe rooms to provide shelter during storms will follow soon.
Alabama is a leader among states in ensuring that all students have a safe place to go when a tornado hits. The Alabama state legislature in 2010 adopted a building code for schools, including the requirement of safe rooms in every new school. This law followed a tornado outbreak in Enterprise, Ala. that impacted the high school.
Now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing Alabama and other states that receive a presidential disaster declaration with funding for safe rooms when students are in temporary facilities. The federal funding amount for safe rooms is 75 percent of the total reimbursable cost.
“Since this guidance was issued just two months ago, schools haven’t had time to buy and install safe rooms,” said Jeff Byard, state coordinating officer for Alabama Emergency Management Agency. “But they will be ready when tornadoes again threaten Alabama during the secondary tornado season in late fall.”
FEMA issued policy guidance stating that the agency can reimburse schools when safe rooms are added to temporary campuses set up following a disaster.
To date, four schools have requested the temporary safe rooms: Plainview Elementary and High School in Dekalb County, Alberta Elementary School in Tuscaloosa, Hackleburg Elementary and High School and Phil Campbell High School.
Applicant school systems must apply through the state. They also must describe the safe space in the damaged facility and the school population that needs access to a safe room. In addition, the schools must demonstrate that there is no suitable place to take cover in the immediate vicinity and that the shelter will be available when the temporary campus is occupied.
“The four schools that will have temporary campuses are now in various stages of purchasing and installing safe rooms,” Byard said.
FEMA will also help pay for the safe room when replacing permanent school buildings since the facility will be constructed according to state codes and standards.
“It is vitally important as we provide assistance to communities in support of their recoveries, that we also think about protecting lives during future disasters,” said Michael Byrne, federal coordinating officer for FEMA. “We all want our children to be safe when they are attending school.”
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
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