Indee's new school to include tornado safe room - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Indee's new school to include tornado safe room

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INDEPENDENCE (KWWL) -

Junior and senior high school students in the Independence Community School District will soon benefit from the first ever FEMA safe room in Buchanan County.

The school district has been awarded FEMA and state grant dollars, totaling $831,064,  to construct a community safe room at the new junior-senior high school, currently under construction. 

"Applying for this FEMA grant has been a very long, detailed process for us.  To hear we have been awarded these funds now to build a safe room in the new junior-senior high school is fantastic.  It is reassuring to have a structure like this within our new facility, which will keep our students and staff safe," said superintendent Jean Peterson.

A safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to meet FEMA criteria and provide "near absolute" protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes. 

While this is the first community safe room in Buchanan County, it is not unusual to have one hosted in a school building. 

"There are approximately 66 approved safe room grants in Iowa and 38 of these are in schools," said Linda Roose from Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The locker rooms at Independence's new school are being designed to serve their day-to-day purposes, but also as a safe room during severe weather.

"The room will be able to accommodate all students and staff during school days and can also be used in the event of severe weather during tournaments or other events hosted at the facility. This makes the new facility that much more valuable," said Rick Wulfekuhle, Buchanan County emergency management coordinator.

Construction of the safe room will include eight inch thick reinforced concrete walls with an insulated cavity and face brick exterior. The roof of the safe room will be made of 12 inch thick reinforced concrete with tapered roof insulation and adhered membrane roofing, all capable of withstanding up to 250 mile-per-hour winds.  An emergency generator will be used as the back-up power source to handle lighting and the air handling system.

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