BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - How can we save more lives the next time a storm like April 27, 2011 hits?
That's what we all asked ourselves in the days after and one of the life-saving lessons our state focused on more perhaps than any other was we need more public storm shelters you can run to if your home isn't safe or if you're stuck away from home when a tornado's bearing down.
Dozens of new shelters capable of keeping thousands of people safe in a tornado opened in the last five years -- including at least 12 new locations going up in Jefferson County soon.
But what we've found is it's sometimes hard to find a shelter near you or find out if it's open.
Most EMAs in our viewing area don't have a list on their websites, and that's partly because most of these shelters are run by the city or county who houses them. That means those individual governments decide when to open them.
"You need to know that months in advance," Jefferson County EMA Director Jim Coker says. "You already need to know your plan. Part of that plan is also knowing where you are. If you're home, you know your shelter is near your home. But what if you're away from your home, what are your options?"
Coker recommends finding the public shelter closest to your work, your spouse's workplace, even your child's schools in case you're caught in a storm while picking them up from school. In many cases, the safest place may be inside the school.
But if it isn't?
"If the threat is there to the point you need to go to a storm shelter, you probably don't have time to look at a website," Coker explained. "We really would like people to do this ahead of time."
Federal funds Jefferson County's getting because of the April 27, 2011 storm are going to build 12 new shelters here:
- Warrior Trafford Rd
- Warrior Hwy 31
- North Smithfield
- North Smithfield Manor
- Pleasant Grove
- Oak Grove
- McDonald’s Chapel
These shelters can double as a community or senior center when the weather's calm. The first one near Trafford Road in warrior should be open in the next two to three months.
Here's a list of shelters in Jefferson County:
- Adamsville - 419 Spring Street, Adamsville, AL
- Bagley Fire Department - 7175 Bankhead Hwy, Dora, AL
- Brookside - 2711 Municipal Lane, Brookside, AL
- Edgewater Oaks Subdivision - Community Center, Lannie Bonner Circle
- Graysville - 4041 Cherry Avenue, Birmingham, AL
- Trussville - 421 Cherokee Drive, Trussville, AL
- Vestavia Hills - Liberty Park Athletic Complex - 4700 Sicard Hollow Road, Vestavia Hills, AL
- Tannehill State Park - Primitive Camp Ground (under construction)
Here's a list of shelters in St. Clair County:
- Pell City Courthouse Basement 1815 Cogswell Ave Pell City, AL 35125
- Ashville Courthouse Basement 100 6th Ave Ashville, AL 35953
- City of Margaret FEMA Storm Shelter #1 1814 South Hillcrest Road Margaret, AL 35112
- City of Margaret FEMA Storm Shelter #2 155 Foxtrot Way, corner of RockCrest and Clearview Rd -enter thru Rock Crest, 1st road on right past 4-way stop Odenville, AL 35120
- City of Odenville FEMA Storm Shelter 200 Alabama Street Odenville, AL 35120
- Pell City CEPA Center FEMA Storm Shelter 120 Williamson Drive Pell City, AL 35125
- City of Riverside FEMA Storm Shelter 379 Depot Street Riverside, AL 35135
- Shoal Creek FEMA Storm Shelter #1 13370 Shoal Creek Road Ashville, AL 35953
- Shoal Creek FEMA Storm Shelter #2 4170 Shoal Creek Road Ashville, AL 35953
- City of Springville FEMA Storm Shelter 585 Village Springs Road Springville, AL
Here's a list of shelters in Tuscaloosa County:
- Tuscaloosa Magnet School – 315 McFarland Blvd E., Tuscaloosa, AL
- University Place School – 2000 First Avenue, Tuscaloosa, AL
- Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy – 2800 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tuscaloosa, AL
- Alberta School of Performing Arts – 2700 University Blvd. E., Tuscaloosa, AL 35404
- Located on Ball Park Rd off of Highway 216. Two shelters behind Brookwood Town Hall, next to the baseball fields. – 15689 Highway 216, Brookwood, AL
- Shelter next to the Coaling Fire Department – 15150 Highway 11 N., Coaling, AL
- Shelter adjacent to the Recreation Complex – 11281 Stephens Loop., Coaling, AL
- Lower Coaling Road at Stone Gate Mobile Home Park in the back of the park – 15100 Stone Gate Dr., Coaling AL
- On Vance Municipal Dr. off of Tingle Tangle Rd. Across the road from Wallace Tingle Park – 17058 Tingle Tangle Rd, Vance, AL
- Shelter behind the High Quality Fuel Gas Station – 18344 Highway 11 N., Vance, AL
- Coker tornado shelter behind the Water Authority and next to the Town Hall. – 11549 Eisenhower Dr., Coker, AL
- Echola Volunteer Fire Department right on County Rd 21. Signage showing the location of the shelter is easily visible from the road. – 17658 Co Rd 21, Gordo, AL
- Shelter located behind Holt Elementary School. It will be opened in the event that a tornado warning is issued in an adjacent and the projected path of travel includes the Holt area. – 1001 Crescent Ridge Rd NE, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404
- Salvation Army FEMA-rated safe room at new location. Safe room will open in the event a tornado watch or warning is issued. – 2902 Greensboro Avenue, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403