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Alabama Law Requires New Schools Have Storm Shelters

Posted on Jun 19, 2013

In Alabama, as new schools are being constructed, they are required to comply with a mandate that became law in 2010. That law is getting a lot of attention now, especially in the wake of the recent tragic EF5 tornado in Oklahoma that claimed 24 lives, 7 of which were students inside their school.

In 2007, eight students died when a tornado hit Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Alabama. Because of that, the Alabama Building Commission started requiring that new K-12 schools have mandatory "safe spaces." This means new schools need storm shelters that can protect all of the students in the event of a major tornado. The tornado that hit Enterprise was the first to kill students at a school since 1990. The city rebuilt Enterprise High for $86 million and equipped it with FEMA-rated storm shelters.

Hartselle High School opened in March and it was a $44 million project. The new law for storm shelters passed 6 months after they broke ground on Hartselle, so they had to figure out a way to incorporate the new shelters into their plan. It is a 280,000 square foot facility and has three storm shelters designed to withstand 250 mph winds. The shelters are within five minutes of any room in the school. Some of the shelters are integrated into the school, doubling as classrooms, halls and corridors. However, if a storm is coming, there are areas to shut doors and provide greater protection.

Some schools that are not totally rebuilding are still adding storm shelters as a precaution and are seeking grants from FEMA.

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