April 19, 2014

Friend safe room takes shape

Adam Troxtell, Sports Editor,
The Express-Star

— Members of Friend School are particularly grateful for the, so far, slow spring storm season.

That's because for seven months now, they've been waiting to put donations and grant money to use for a brand new school safe room, the planning for which began in the wake of the Moore tornado last year. On Friday, that finally began to turn into reality with the setting of the first of four shipping containers in concrete that will form the core of the safe room.

"Our community has just amazed me," said Alton Rawlins, superintendent of Friend School. "We're not going to have to dip into the general or the building fund. I'm hoping to have it done by July, but we've got some bids out and we're really at the mercy of contractors."

But perhaps the biggest hurdle, the money, is already taken care of thanks to a $25,000 grant from Shelter Oklahoma Schools and about $27,000 raised through community donations. It is estimated the safe room will cost about $50,000.

Once the money was raised, there was the matter of making sure the shelter was certified for future use. That meant FEMA had to approve its design.

"It was a new, radical idea and they just needed to make sure it really would withstand an F5 tornado," Rawlins said. "That takes a while. Once they made their suggestions, we made a few changes to the plan."

The four 8 x 40-foot shipping containers will be welded together, reinforced by concrete and placed partially underground. FEAMA-approved doors that can withstand an F5 tornado will then be added.

This method saved the school potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, since a standard FEMA safety shelter can run up to $700,000.

"It's certainly a lot cheaper than an above-ground shelter, yet we'll have the same amount of security."