New Alabama schools required to have storm shelters

The Madison school under construction has two storm shelters.
The Madison school under construction has two storm shelters.

New schools in Alabama will change forever due to storms, but not because of tornadoes that hit the state on April 27th.

Like other high schools, there will be a cafeteria, classrooms, and a library in the new Madison City High School.  But, the new school will be one of the first schools in Alabama to have what's called an ICC 500 storm shelter.

Frank Nola with SKT Architects says there will be two locations with safe areas in the new high school.

"One is in the auxiliary gym, and the other is in the auditorium," said Nola.

The two safe spaces will hold 2,700 people, have 12 inch thick walls, and ease the impact of atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure is the force that causes walls to blow out, or implode during tornadoes.

The storm safe rooms at the new high school will be able to withstand what's called the missile test. That's not what you might see on the arsenal, but it means that the walls must be able to withstand a 15 pound 2X4 traveling at 100 miles per hour.

"It's like two big giant bank vaults, they are reinforced steel and concrete structures," said Nola.

The school will have 30,000 square feet of safe area, but this school's storm shelter wasn't designed because of April 27th's tornadoes. It was designed after a deadly tornado killed eight students at Enterprise High School four years ago.

The disaster at Enterprise in 2007 prompted lawmakers to come up with a plan. All new schools under contract since July of 2010 must have up to code storm shelters.

Schools like Blossomwood Elementary in Huntsville, and the new high school in Madison have the shelters.

Madison's storm shelter has actually already been used. When a tornado passed close to the city in April, crews didn't have anywhere to go. They actually hid in the safe rooms until the storms passed.

The two rooms in Madison cost about $500,000 each. These types of rooms are only required in new schools.

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