During Hurricane Ivan several city of Daphne firefighters stayed in town and were housed in the station behind City Hall.
“A tree came through the roof,” Councilman Ron Scott said. “Fortunately, our guys were sleeping under firetrucks so nobody got hurt.”
Since, the city has been hoping to come up with a bigger and better shelter for first responders for the next storm. But the cost of undertaking such a project was too expensive.
“When we went to bid it was considerably more than what we had budgeted for,” Scott said. “Right now, we’ve got a room that holds about 10 people in case of a storm. We’ve got a lot more people than that that need to be in a safe environment so that they can respond as soon as the storm blows over. They can safely get out there and assess the damage and clear the roads. And the first responders can do what they need to do. It is critical for us in order to quickly be able to respond.”
The city will now get that new shelter thanks to a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding. Earlier this month a bid for $631,000 to build a new storm shelter for city employees was awarded to E-J Builders.
Daphne had to provide a 25-percent match to qualify for the grant and did so by approving $117,000 for design and engineering for the shelter earlier this year; receiving an in-kind credit of $35,000 for donating the land for the shelter; and voting June 3 to spend $58,000 out of the general fund to cover the $210,000 match. The FEMA grant covers the remaining $631,000.
“The new one will hold 58 people and they’ll have food and everything’s self-contained,” Scott said. “It would withstand a Category 5 hurricane. We would preposition our personnel in this room during the storm itself because once the storm is over, once certain safety guidelines are met, then these responders have to go out and start attending to the needs of the city.”
The shelter is going to be built on city property on Public Works Road near the Al Trione Sports Complex. It will be a 2,657-square-foot building and the contract calls for completion of the facility in 30 days.
Fairhope Public Works Director Richard Johnson said his city has an agreement with the H.L. Sonny Callahan Airport to house first responders there but would like to have separate shelter as well.
“That building is a wind-certified building and that’s actually where we will house our first responders in the event of a wind storm,” Johnson said. “We have on our wish list and have applied for hazard mitigation funding for an in-house first responder shelter.”
At the southern end of the county, Gulf Shores, Foley and Orange Beach use Foley High School as a shelter. Gulf Shores also houses first responders at its Public Works building and Orange Beach has smaller shelters built into several of its buildings for critical employees to shelter in during storms.
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