New school construction could save lives

Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 7:36 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Schools are always looking at new ways to keep students, faculty, and staff safe during severe weather, and now even the way schools are built has new guidance.

Deputy Superintendent of Operations for Jefferson County Schools, Neal Underwood, said back in 2012, the Alabama legislature passed a bill that requires all new school construction to have storm shelters in the building, and any additions to existing buildings will have to be able to withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour.

Underwood said the school district is in the process of building six new schools, and all of them will have a wing designed to be a storm shelter.

Warrior Elementary School just opened on March 8 and it also meets those new specifications.

The 80,000 square-foot building has three wings on the back, one of which is a storm shelter that safely houses all students, faculty and staff in the event of a tornado, or other severe weather.

“The roofing is different from normal roofing on an area that is not a storm shelter, the walls, whether it’s the block with poured concrete with rebar, all of those are designed differently. The heating and air components to that particular area is designed differently…and that’s so that if we ever have to go in there and then there is damage, we can sustain ourselves inside that area for several hours,” Underwood explained.

He said the school storm shelters are available to students, faculty, and staff only during normal school hours, but they will be open as needed to the community outside of school hours.

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