EMS Director Case Discusses Plans for Tornado Shelters at County Commission Meeting

Dade is looking at modular tornado shelters from Modular Connections in Bessemer, Ala., like this one depicted on the firm's website.

Speaking at last week’s January meeting of the Dade County Commission, Dade Emergency Services Director (and incidentally, Trenton Mayor) Alex Case gave an update on the county’s efforts to provide emergency shelters to its citizens, an on-again-off-again initiative since Dade was ravaged by the tornadoes of April 2011.

Case (left) reminded the commission and audience that Dade had in fact managed after the storms to procure some crisis-management aid from federal and state emergency management agencies, including grants for emergency generators and the mighty alarm siren in Trenton installed last winter, with two more of the latter more planned for the Davis School and Four Fields areas.

But Case said the More said tornado shelters had always been on the wish list and had been included in a 2013 grant application which had been declined.

Now, he said, the county had tried again and applied for grants for four shelters. Only three had been approved, he said. Of these, one is slated to be built near the Four Fields athletic complex, another in south Dade, and one near Davis School. “We’ve got some property that the school gave us years ago,” he said.

The county had also applied for a shelter in the city and another in the north end, but those projects have gone nowhere so far, said Case.

Still, big plans are being made for the three grant-approved shelters, said Case. Each is projected to cost $425,000, with $318,750 of that, or 75 percent, being picked up by the feds. Of the remaining $106,250 per shelter that Dade is required to pay in matching share, a good amount of it should be satisfied in-kind by using county labor to clear the land, dig footers and lay foundations.

DeKalb County, Ala., put in eight of these shelters after the 2011 tornadoes. Now Case says they're rusting and some have been shut down. (This is the one in Henagar, circa last spring.)

Dade’s shelters will not be the kind put in by neighboring DeKalb County, Alabama. DeKalb, which was hit much harder than Dade in the 2011 tornadoes, put in its shelters pretty quickly thereafter. “Now they’re having trouble with them rusting to death and they’re full of water,” said Case. “A lot of them are closed up now.”

So Dade will invest in heavier-duty shelters manufactured by Modular Connections, a manufacturer in Bessemer, Ala., said Case. These will be 14-foot wide, handicapped-accessible modular buildings that come in four sections. They will have their own heat and power and will hold 215 people. “You can add on to them as you go,” said Case.

Case said the shelters will not be used only during tornadoes. “My goal is to have them available for warming shelters for days like this,” he said. “It’s just not for one use.” They would also be used for cooling shelters in extreme heat, community meetings and mass medicine distribution centers when or if needed, he said.

When, asked County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley, will all this happen? “It all depends on when they approve it,” said Case.

He reminded the commission it had taken nearly four years for Dade to receive its emergency generators.

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