EMA looks to build new storm shelters

Published 12:43 pm Friday, July 1, 2011

The Union Grove community storm shelter in Jemison. The Chilton County wants to add three new storm shelters in areas currently not served by shelters within a 5-mile drive.

Chilton County EMA Director Bill Collum is moving forward with plans to construct three additional storm shelters, with the ultimate goal of having a shelter within a five-mile drive of all county residents.

Collum submitted a letter of intent for the project to the Chilton County Commission during its Monday meeting. In the letter, Collum asked for three smaller community storm shelters to be placed at strategic points in the county that currently do not have a shelter close by.

Locations of Chilton County’s six storm shelters. View Storm shelters in a larger map

The project would cost approximately $210,000, which would be paid for from FEMA hazard mitigation funds. The commission unanimously approved Collum’s request.

“We’re trying to protect people who cannot afford to build their own individual shelters,” said Collum. “Most home shelters cost more than $6,000. A lot of people can’t afford it, and I feel the community shelters are really important.”

Chilton County currently has five operating storm shelters in Clanton, Maplesville, Union Grove, Enterprise and the west side of Jemison.

A sixth shelter, at East Chilton Fire and Rescue between Clanton and Lake Mitchell, will be completed within the next two months, Collum said.

The EMA is looking at adding the three new shelters in places that are not within 5 miles of a current shelter. No final decision has been made about where they will be built.

Collum said shelters could be added in places like Thorsby or just south of Thorsby, Verbena/Marbury, Lee’s Camp on the northeast side of the river, the extreme north part of the county, Stanton/Plantersville, and Isabella/Fairview.

Collum said it’s important to have shelters within a short drive because most tornado warnings have about a 15-minute lead time.

“The 5-mile radius is something we laid out because we figured if the National Weather Service gives a 15-minute lead time, with a 5-mile radius, everyone can load up their families and have ample time to get to a shelter,” said Collum.

Collum said it’s also important for people to have weather radios that sound the alarm so people know severe weather is imminent and to take shelter.

While there are currently 39 weather sirens across the county, those are intended for people outside and shouldn’t be depended on for severe weather warnings, Collum said.

“I don’t want people to depend on the sirens because if they are in the house with the windows closed, or they go to sleep, they probably won’t hear it,” Collum said. “Have a weather radio so you can respond and get to a shelter quickly.”

All shelters in Chilton County are located at local fire and rescue departments, except for Clanton and Maplesville.

To be FEMA certified, shelters must have storm doors and be able to withstand 250 mph winds and 100 mph projectile impacts.

Collum said as long as federal money is out there to help build the shelters, it’s something the county should actively pursue.

“If (funds are) being made available, we need to take advantage of it,” Collum said.

Current storm shelters are located at the following addresses:

•Clanton City Hall, 505 2nd Ave. N., Clanton.

•Maplesville, 120 Railroad St., Maplesville.

•Enterprise, 6162 County Road 24, Verbena.

•West Chilton, 2678 County Road 42, Jemison.

•Union Grove, 11638 County Road 51 Jemison.

•East Chilton, near 5640 County Road 28, Clanton.

All shelters are open when the county is under a tornado watch and are manned in the event of a tornado warning.