Mid-Missouri schools equip for tornados with safe rooms
BY TORI MEADOR and NATE ANTON
It's tornado season in Missouri and while school might be out for the summer, administrators continue to prepare for life-threatening weather with their surrounding communities.
About 90 of the 144 tornado safe rooms in Missouri are in schools according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These safe rooms also serve as shelters for the communities in which they are built. For example, the safe room at Hawthorne Elementary in Mexico, Mo. provides shelter for 3,000 people.
"Two years ago there was a tornado warning and it was right at the end of school, and community members came in while the kids were here," Hawthorne Elementary Principal Holly Pashia said.
Hawthorne Elementary administrators coordinate with the Audrain County emergency management coordinator, the Audrain County Sherriff’s Office and the local American Red Cross to outline emergency management procedures for the community. These procedures revolve around the safe room.
Funding for safe rooms can cost up to $1 million to $2 million dollars to build because of the specific requirements for wind resistance. Hawthorne Elementary's safe room cost $2 million. FEMA provides grants through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which provides up to 75 percent of funding for state and local governments to create long-term disaster prevention measures.
To apply for funding the schools must submit a draft plan of the safe room that is consistent with FEMA requirements. Some of the requirements include withstanding winds up to 250 miles per hour, rainwater resistant roof and siding, and having a power back up system for lighting. The schools must also demonstrate cost-effectiveness using cost-benefit analysis.
Other Missouri school districts like Sedalia #200 School District have also implemented these safe rooms.