ST. PAUL — When a tornado is headed toward a community a specially-constructed safe room can provide protection for area residents. Two new community safe rooms will be built in Minnesota, funded through federal grants secured by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM).
Paynesville Middle School-High School
The safe room at the Paynesville Middle School-High School will be used by students, staff, visitors and neighbors of the school. The dual-use room will be 4,691 square feet and built in the shape of a V with two 60 foot wings. The federal share of funding is $461,633. Fundraising generated a local match for the 25 percent non-federal share of $153,878.
Lake Traverse, Minn.
The safe room to be built near Lake Traverse will be available for visitors of a recreational vehicle park located in the area. The safe room will be 720 square feet and will be able to hold up to 122 occupants. The federal share of funding is $105,269.
In addition to the two recently-approved safe rooms, Minnesota has a first first-of-its kind safe room operational in the Wadena-Deer Creek School District. HSEM helped secure the funding for that project in November of 2011. It resulted in a 6,547-square-foot-room designed to hold 1,214 people. The safe room is a multi-purpose gymnasium built with concrete wall panels which allow it to withstand winds of 250 miles per hour. Wadena decided on the safe room following a devastating tornado in 2010.
Community safe rooms are hardened structures designed to meet FEMA criteria and provide "near-absolute protection" in extreme weather events including tornadoes. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has funding available for eligible applicants through HSEM’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
“Community safe rooms save lives and we encourage all counties in Minnesota to include the option in their hazard mitigation plan,” said Kris Eide, Director of HSEM. “There is currently federal funding available. To be eligible communities must have a safe room option in their plan.”
HSEM has reached out to emergency managers and school administrators across Minnesota to inform them federal funds are available for these life-saving structures. HSEM staff will help local officials with the application process.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention
Homeland Security and Emergency Management helps Minnesotans prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters.
• HSEM staff members are helping Minnesota communities recover from eight federally declared disasters from 2010 through 2013.
• In FY 2012, HSEM awarded 402 Homeland Security grants totaling $80 million to 300 local governments and other entities to prepare them for all hazards including terrorism.
• HSEM oversees:
11 Chemical Assessments Teams
1 Emergency Response Team (hazardous materials)
5 Structural Collapse Teams making up MN Task Force 1
4 Bomb Squads
Statewide Decontamination Program