Hub City Spokes, Hattiesburg
Safe Room in the Works for Forrest County AHS
By Haskel Burns
The second of 12 safe rooms at Forrest County and Petal schools is on the way, as state officials recently announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved a $1 million grant to build a community safe room at Forrest County Agricultural High School.
Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss; Cindy Hyde Smith, R-Miss; and Congressman Steven Palazzo, R-Miss, said last week that FEMA has approved a Hazard Mitigation grant to construct the safe room at the school in Brooklyn.
“I am pleased FEMA has recognized Forrest County’s continuing investments in storm safety since Hurricane Katrina,” Wicker said in a statement. “This grant will mean hundreds more Mississippians can seek refuge from our state’s unpredictable and sometimes dangerous weather, including the recent series of tornadoes that have come through the region.”
The 5,000-square-foot safe room will be designed to hold 835 people within a half-mile radius and withstand wind speeds of up to 250 miles per hour. The project is expected to cost $1.23 million overall.
“The board is excited that FEMA has approved for us to move forward with the bidding process – the second phase is actually the bidding and naming of a contractor,” said David Hogan, president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors. “We would like to thank our federal delegation – Steven Palazzo, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde Smith – for assisting us and getting that process to move forward.
“The board will advertise for bids in the near future, and we’re glad to be a part of providing a safe place for faculty and children to go during times of tornadoes or other inclement weather.”
Earlier this year, officials announced plans for a safe room at Dixie Attendance Center, which will be available during school hours for students and faculty in the event of inclement weather or other emergencies. That facility will be built to accommodate up to 800 people, and will be capable of withstanding 200-mile-per-hour winds.
The safe rooms at FCAHS and Dixie Attendance Center come courtesy of the first two of three grants by FEMA. The third grant will help cover the other 10 schools in the districts.
The FEMA grants will cover 90 percent of the cost of the safe rooms, with the county and school districts covering the other 10 percent.
“They’re strategically located where everybody on campus can get inside of the safe rooms within five minutes or less,” Hogan said.