By REBECCA HAZEN
The three storm shelters in Dade County are nearly completed and will be ready to use in the event of inclement weather, according to Alex Case, Director of Emergency Services.
The storm shelters are located at the Dade County Sports Complex, the South Dade Community Center, and on Davis School Road. The storm shelters will also have use as community meeting rooms, and a voting precinct for the South Dade location, specifically.
The shelters will hold 265 people each. Each shelter includes men’s and women’s bathrooms and a shower. They are accessible for those with disabilities.
The shelters consist of four separate modular pieces, from Modular Construction LLC, out of Bessemer, Ala. The pieces were brought separately and then connected on site.
The storm shelters were made possible due to a hazard mitigation grant.
“In 2015 we had a major flood event in Dade County. Roads were washed out and shut down. Usually after an event like that, hazard mitigation funding comes available. Dade County was declared, and the state of Georgia was federally declared too. We became eligible for funding through the state through the federal hazard mitigation project,” Case said.
Case continued, “At that time, the options were for outdoor warning sirens and storm shelters. We chose both and got both. We got awarded on the sirens quickly and got the first one in at the 911 Center. Later we got ones at the four fields and in Davis.”
Dade County was not awarded the money by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) until the fall of 2019, because many studies had to be done to get the hazard mitigation grant, including a study on what county government property was available, and a study of how many homes were in a five-mile radius and in a two-mile radius.
“When they finally gave us the go ahead in 2019, the pricing was tremendously higher. It took them a while to get them built because we entered our first year of COVID-19. We have already had to get more extensions through FEMA for this,” Case said.
According to Case, all three buildings are 100 percent set, welded and painted. All three of the buildings have power, and two of them have water. Work is still being done on the Sports Complex location because road bore construction needs to be completed.
“Worst case scenario, we can use them now,” Case said.
The shelters will have electronic locks in which a code is needed to activate them.
“It is a solid pre–cast concrete facility. These doors are filled with solid concrete, and they have heavy latches that go into the floor and go into the top of the building,” Case said.
There is also the HUB network, consisting of volunteers from various churches, who will stand ready to help. Case noted that members of the HUB may help open the shelters when they are needed. During inclement weather, Hyper-Reach, the mass emergency notification system, will be activated and notifications will be sent to those who have signed up for the alerts.
“We are working diligently. We are doing a lot of work in-house. We want to be good stewards of our money. We are doing a lot of labor between myself and EMA deputy directors Ansel Smith and Jerry Kyzer, and public works has helped with supplies and equipment. We have also had volunteer firefighters help. We are doing what we can,” Case said.