Safe Rooms and Community Shelters Case Studies

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Case studies present illustrated examples of approaches communities have employed to improve public safety through wind shelter initiatives. Topics addressed include risk assessment, design and construction, private- and public-sector cooperative efforts, and costs and funding mechanisms.

Community shelters

Community Wind Shelters thumbnailCommunity Wind Shelters: Background and Research
In areas subject to extreme-wind events, building owners, school and hospital administrators, neighborhood associations, and other individuals and organizations with responsibilities for public safety should consider building a community shelter. As outlined in this publication, wind hazards, such as those associated with tornadoes and hurricanes, vary throughout the United States. The decision to build a wind shelter will be based largely on the magnitude of the wind hazard in a given area and on the level of risk considered acceptable.

Protecting School Children from Tornadoes thumbnailProtecting School Children from Tornadoes: State of Kansas School Shelter Initiative
As a result of the May 3, 1999 tornado event, damaged counties in Kansas received a Presidential disaster declaration and financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Because the event clearly evidenced that additional protection was needed for Kansas’ school children, work began to find a way to construct tornado shelters in Kansas schools. FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), as well as supplemental appropriations from Congress, provided funding for damage-prevention projects after the tornadoes. The State of Kansas School Shelter Initiative case study showcases several school shelter projects.

Hardened First Responder Facility border=Hardened First Responder Facility: 911 Communication and Emergency Operations Center The state-of-the-art hardened first responder facility in Smith County, Texas, serves as a centralized 911 communications dispatch and emergency operations center (EOC) for approximately 30 agencies. Notable features of this 15,000-square-foot facility include a roof and exterior walls hardened to resist tornadic forces, a lobby designed to minimize blast effects, multiple security access levels, and an area specifically planned for press conferences, interviews, and other interaction with members of the media.

Clara Barton Hospital ShelterClara Barton Hospital Shelter: Hoisington, Kansas Following the April 21, 2001, Hoisington, Kansas tornado, Lloyd Arnold, of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KDEM), and Hospital Administrator Jim Turnbull discussed ways to ensure the safety of the patients and staff in the event of another tornado. They decided to build a shelter at the hospital — the first hospital shelter in the state to meet the design, performance, and construction criteria presented in Design and Construction Guidance for Community Safe Rooms, FEMA P-361.


Iowa State Fair Campground Shelter thumbnailA Safe Haven for Campers: Iowa State Fair Campground Shelter
The Iowa State Fair campground is part of the Iowa State Fair complex, which is located outside Iowa’s capital, Des Moines, an area vulnerable to tornadoes and high-wind events. In June 1998, a storm with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour (mph) caused over $465,000 in damage to the State Fair complex, severely impacting the campground with fallen trees and limbs. Fortunately, no one was hurt during this event, but the potential for disaster and loss of human life was obvious. As a result, the State Fair board made a decision to construct a shelter at the campground. The construction of the campground shelter has demonstrated the importance the State Fair board has placed on the safety of campers at the Iowa State Fair complex.

Arkansas’ Shelter Initiative for Residences and Schools thumbnailArkansas’ Shelter Initiative for Residences and Schools
In 1996, the Governor of Arkansas recognized the state’s vulnerability to future severe weather events and declared an annual statewide Severe Weather Awareness Week. As part of this annual week, the National Weather Service (NWS) and Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) scheduled a media campaign, including press releases, public service announcements, and televised appearances. The Severe Weather Awareness Week was expanded to include a Disaster Preparedness Tour, using the theme “Prepare for Tomorrow’s Disaster...Today!”

Residential safe rooms

 Background and Research  thumbnailResidential Safe Rooms: Background and Research
A residential safe room is a small, specially designed (“hardened”) room, such as a bathroom or closet, or other space within the house that is intended to provide a place of refuge only for the people who live in the house. In areas subject to extreme-wind events, homeowners should consider building a residential safe room. Wind hazards, such as those associated with tornadoes and hurricanes, vary throughout the United States. The decision to build a safe room will be based largely on the magnitude of the wind hazard in a given area and on the level of risk considered acceptable.

Safe Rooms Save Lives  thumbnailSafe Rooms Save Lives: State of Oklahoma Safe Room Initiative
On May 3, 1999, more than 70 tornadoes tore through Kansas and Oklahoma in the worst tornado outbreak in a generation. As a result of these tornadoes, in Oklahoma alone over 44 persons died and almost 800 were injured. How could Oklahomans feel safe in future tornadoes? To help answer this question, the State of Oklahoma launched an initiative to promote and support the construction of storm shelters in homes. These shelters, built to FEMA guidelines, are called “safe rooms.” The initiative was the first large-scale effort to build thousands of safe rooms through a rebate program, and its success is a direct result of the involvement and strong support of the Governor of Oklahoma and the participation of partners in industry, business, government, and the private sector. Thousands of safe rooms were built and, although funding for the rebate program has ended, the initiative continues to result in the construction of safe rooms throughout the state.

Additional Case Studies

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Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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