New community saferooms in Etowah County - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

New community saferooms in Etowah County

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ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. - A six year wait for community saferooms ends this week for three rural areas in etowah county.

Storm shelters arrived at Gallant Volunteer Fire Department, Coates Bend Volunteer Fire Department, and Macedonia Baptist Church.

"We're absolutely glad to have them here now," Gadsden-Etowah County EMA director Mike Bryant said.

"This process began back in 2008."

He said the process of getting FEMA grants and funding from other sources typically takes a while.  However, the deadly storms of April 27, 2011, put a halt on the progress for Etowah's shelters, as attention and money went to immediate recovery.

"It was on such a massive scale that everything prior to that got pushed into the background, which was understandable," Bryant said.

"We began to try again to get this brought forward.  It was just...  I think it just kind of got lost through the works."

The county finally received approval of the grant in late 2012.  It covers three-fourths of the cost, but the communities must provide the rest.  That can include the property and labor.

The Gallant site was ready months ago, but Bryant said it saved the county money to have them all installed at once.

"The weather was so bad in the winter, we hoped to have them in by the spring tornado season, but the weather was so bad we couldn't do the site preps," he said.

Crews placed the shells on concrete foundations Tuesday.  Workers will secure them to the ground with bolts and epoxy this weekend.

Coates Bend fire chief Michael Prickett said his community began waiting on their saferoom more than five years ago.  The fire station hosted people during storms, and Prickett said it it supposed to withstand 90 mile per hour winds.

"We have had people here.  We've got the community center we go to.  Churches have opened in our area, so we've got a lot of places to go to for our community," Prickett said.

While those are all better than a mobile home, they are not as sturdy as FEMA-certified shelters.  The county has a "Shelter Etowah" program in place with a network of churches and other buildings open as shelters during storms.  There was only one FEMA-certified shelter, at the Northeast Etowah Water Authority.

Now there are four, and the new sites will be added to the Shelter Etowah website, which lists the shelters that are open at any given time.  The new community saferooms each have seating for 50 people.

"If storms get really bad, we're going to pack them in until the door won't shut hardly.  We're going to try to keep everybody safe in our community," Prickett said.

There is also a Shelter Etowah app available on iTunes and in the Google Play store for Android smartphones.

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