By: Evan Gurley, NPCA Technical Services
On June 13, 2011, NPCA attended the Safer Alabama Summit in Tuscaloosa. This event was a joint venture of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of Alabama Emergency Management Agency.
The purpose of the summit was to provide a consortium for state officials, FEMA officials and others to discuss lessons learned from the recent tornado disaster and to provide information as to how Alabamians can mitigate against future damage. More than 240 people attended, including state and local officials, contractors, builders, engineers, academic and scientific departments and organizations, insurance companies, trade associations, media and the public.
During his speech, Michael Byrne, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer, said that he’d like to see tornado safe rooms become a standard part of any construction project in the state.
“Living in Tornado Alley, how can you build a house or a school or a community center without a safe place to go?” asked Byrne.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was also in attendance. He encouraged local officials to look for innovative ideas such as creating hardened areas in schools that could also be used as community shelters. He also said he is open to requiring construction of storm shelters in mobile home parks, either by asking legislators to pass a new law or issuing an executive order. He added that too few shelters have been built with funding from voluntary federal programs, and that action by communities needs to be taken before memories fade.
Vendors on hand, including some NPCA members, presented several options for tornado protection.
Numerous presenters indicated that money will be allocated to the state and local municipalities in order to fund the construction of community storm shelters in the coming years.
FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides grants to state and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration. The purpose of the HMGP is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster.
A panel of presenters then spoke about industry standards in which storm shelters are to be constructed. The widely accepted industry certification is through the NSSA (National Storm Shelter Association), which certifies numerous products such as precast concrete structures.