Construction of FEMA emergency shelter on schedule
Published 12:07 am Wednesday, May 21, 2014
NATCHEZ — Construction of a FEMA 361 storm super shelter near Natchez High School is on schedule with portions of the shelter’s frame expected to go up this week.
The 12,000 square-foot shelter, which is located next to the Steckler Multipurpose Building at Natchez High School, will be capable of withstanding an EF5 tornado and allowing people inside to be self sufficient for 72 hours.
In order to allow the structure to be self sufficient for that long, four large tanks for sewer, water and fire protection will be an integral part of the shelter, said retiring Adams County Emergency Management Director Stan Owens.
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“Those tanks are necessary in case something happens to water and sewage in the area and that way this shelter can really stand on its own for that period of time and not have to rely on any other source of water,” Owens said. “It should be able to stand on its own for 72 hours in case of a natural disaster where everything is shut off.”
“It will even have its own fire protection water.”
The shelter, Owens said, will be able to comfortably house 1,000 people with enough room for each person to have a cot and elbowroom.
The number could be doubled in case of a sudden emergency in which the goal would be to pack as many people into the shelter as quickly as possible, Owens said.
“It would double at least if we’re talking about having everyone in there shoulder to shoulder,” Owens said. “It’s got plenty of room.”
The shelter will also have hook-ups for kitchen and other appliances, but Owens said those items would not come installed with the shelter.
Mark Golmon, project superintendent for project contractor Paul Jackson and Sons, said construction is on schedule despite several heavy rains in the area.
“The rain didn’t really stop us, which was good,” Golmon said. “We’re moving right along.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved in January an additional $169,641 for the project.
Efforts to build the shelter — originally funded with $3.25 million in shelter funds released after Hurricane Katrina — began in 2008, but delays at the local level to start construction led to an inflation of project’s cost as the price of materials rose. When bids were submitted last fall, they were approximately a half-million over the original budget.
After working with the engineering and construction firms, Owens said the cost of the project was reduced by approximately $340,000 through value engineering or going through the plans and changing them slightly to reduce costs. The Adams County Board of Supervisors committed to the new price of $3,419,641 late last year on the condition the county’s emergency management department would ask FEMA to fund the overrun in costs.
Officials broke ground on the project in February, and Owens expects construction to be complete by next spring.
Under the plan presented by FEMA, the shelter will be maintained by the Natchez-Adams County School District and would be available for community use.
Incoming Adams County EMA Director Robert Bradford Sr. said the shelter would be a valuable asset to the community.
“It’s a big addition to our area as far as emergency preparedness goes,” Bradford said. “It’s another spot for people to come to get out of the elements, so I’m excited for the project.”