TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, AL – As the State of Alabama began recovery efforts from the April 2011 storms deemed one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in the history of the South, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 4 developed partnerships with organizations within the state to foster the mission of creating a safer Alabama.
Steven Gray, store manager of Lowe’s in Tuscaloosa, partnered with Region 4’s Hazard Mitigation Branch to supply most of the materials for the construction of FEMA’s Disaster Avoidance With Good Home-Attenuating Unionization System (DAWG HAUS). DAWG HAUS is used by structural engineers to describe a building that can stand up against high-velocity winds. The connectors, including hurricane straps and brackets, were donated by Simpson Strong Ties.
The DAWG HAUS illustrates ways of locking the different parts of a building together with metal connectors, hurricane clips, sill plate anchoring, and gable-end bracing. The high school or voc-tech project shows better building techniques to students who plan to go into the construction field. Local building supply stores such as Lowe’s Home Improvement, Home Depot, and Simpson Strong Ties have been major contributors of materials to this project.
Alabama schools are closed for the summer so this DAWG HAUS was coordinated by Community Education & Outreach (CEO) Lead Elizabeth Floyd and constructed by FEMA CEO Specialist Angel Morales, along with engineers Donald Leifheit and Matthew Dewar. It was displayed at the 2011 Safer Alabama Summit held June 13 at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
“I think it’s a great thing to participate in something like this. This was a big project for me; however, it was one that I welcomed getting involved in,” said Gray. “To be able to show people what they can do to safeguard lives is just wonderful.”
Gray’s involvement with the project led to the idea of a future project. He plans to build a safe room using the guidelines and plans outlined in FEMA 320, Taking Shelter From the Storm (http://www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/saferoom/fema320).
“I live in a small community. It’s ‘heir’ property that belongs to my family,” said Gray. “I am the only one with a slab-on-grade house. The others live in mobile homes. I told my wife that I plan to build a safe room big enough for the entire family of relatives, about 40 people.”
Safety can be greatly enhanced with a free standing safe room or a strengthened are within a larger structure or in-ground. Safe rooms built according to the standards outlined in FEMA 320, in a home or small business provide "near-absolute protection" for its occupants. FEMA 320 provides several interior blueprints that can be incorporated into a home or small business, and also provides cost estimates.
For additional information, contact the FEMA Safe Room Help Line at 866-222-3580 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The help line provides information on where to go for assistance regarding hazard mitigation grants and other grant funding, project eligibility, and guidelines for safe room construction. FEMA’s safe room web site (http://www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/saferoom) is another source of information.