In the aftermath of Monday’s devastating tornado that hit Oklahoma and killed seven school children in Moore, Okla., many local parents and teachers are thankful for FEMA shelters at all of the Augusta schools.
As a result of the May 3, 1999 tornado event, when a total of 74 tornadoes touched down across Kansas and Oklahoma in less than 21 hours, some of the damaged counties received a Presidential disaster declaration and financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), as well as supplemental appropriations from Congress, provided funding for damage-prevention projects after the tornadoes.
USD 402 Augusta received funds for tornado safe rooms and the rooms were included in the construction of the new Lincoln and Garfield Elementary Schools, as well as new additions to Ewalt Elementary, Robinson Elementary, Augusta Middle School and Augusta High School.
Locally, the safe rooms have been constructed into classrooms and do not have a “bunker” appearance. The secondary use can be just as important - especially in mitigating budget costs.
A safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to meet FEMA criteria and provide "near-absolute protection" in extreme weather events, including tornadoes. Near-absolute protection means that, based on current knowledge of tornadoes, the occupants of a safe room will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.
That protection offers a lot of peace of mind to the entire community.