The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

March 6, 2012

Local EMA seeking to register storm shelters


The News Courier

From staff reports

The Limestone County Emergency Management Agency is asking those who have shelters to register them.

EMA officials say having a list of who has a shelter, the type of shelter and where it’s located will help emergency workers rescue anyone trapped by debris.

“If something happens, we’ll have a list when we go through the neighborhoods for search and rescue,” said EMA communications officer Daphne Ellison. “If the house falls, it could fall on the shelter and we would have to move debris away to get people out.”

The information on the EMA’s shelter database will not be shared with the public and only EMA officials and first responders will have access to the list. The EMA is simply seeking the shelter owner’s name, address, name of the subdivision, where the shelter is located, if it’s aboveground or an in-ground shelter and the capacity.

“We’ve got 60 people on the list right now, but not everyone has called to give us their information,” Ellison said.

At least six building permits for shelters have been filed in the Athens Public Works Department since October. Officials said, however, that amount does not reflect safe rooms included in new construction.

So far, the EMA has registered 73 shelters in the county. Approximately 30 of those had already been registered before April 27 last year, Ellison said. Some had been registered since the 1974 tornado outbreak.

Following the tornadoes last spring, the Limestone County Commission voted to use FEMA hazard mitigation funds related to the disaster to build five community shelters, as opposed to disbursing funds for a handful of private shelters.

In October, the commission passed a resolution to sign 30-year lease agreements on the sites that would eventually house the shelters. The county can renew the leases for additional five-year terms. Those sites include:

• Wooley Springs Baptist Church, located at 26069 Alabama 251 in Elkmont;

• Ark of Promise Church, located at 15199 Brownsferry Street in Athens;

• Oak Grove Thatch Volunteer Fire Department, located at 27712 McKee Road in Toney;

• Owens Volunteer Fire Department substation, located at 17210 Glaze Road in Athens; and;

• Little Ezekiel Missionary Baptist Church, located at 16439 Lindsay Road in Tanner.

Ellison said the EMA has not received any information regarding the status of the mitigation funds and doesn’t know when the federal government might release the money.

“We just had such a hard year in terms of natural disasters, so it could be a while,” she said.

The county currently has three storm shelters — at Clements, Pleasant Grove and Goodsprings volunteer fire departments — that can hold between 100 and 130 residents each.

Though not funded by the county, there are several other community shelters in Limestone, including:

• Good Shepherd United Methodist Church at the corner of Old Railroad Bed and Capshaw roads; holds 100 people;

• Owens Elementary School; holds 600 people; open to the public after school hours only;

• West Limestone High School; holds 1,000 people; open to the public after school hours only;

• Lester Community Storm Shelter on Lester Road by the post office; holds up to 150 people.

To register a shelter with the Limestone County EMA, call 256-232-2631 or information can also be sent via email at ema@limestonecounty-al.gov. The form can also be downloaded here: http://static.cnhi.zope.net/flashpromo/enewscourier/ShelterRegistrationForm.pdf