Storm shelter funds headed to county

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Rural residents may soon enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a safe place to go during severe storms, thanks to a federal grant.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced this month that the state will receive a $966,000 grant to help build 276 safe rooms in the state. The safe rooms will serve as shelters for residents in 23 counties, including Shelby County.

The Shelby County Emergency Management Agency will receive a portion of the state funds, but the amount coming to the county is still undetermined.

The federal funds are part of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant program, which provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration.

The purpose of the program is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) helped secure the grant for Alabama.

&uot;Severe storms and tornadoes have caused significant damage to Alabama in recent years. I am pleased that FEMA has awarded these funds to 23 Alabama counties so we can better protect our citizens in the event of future disasters,&uot; Shelby said.

The federal grant accounts for 75 percent of Alabama’s &uot;A Safe Place to Go&uot; project.

Individual homeowners approved for safe rooms will provide the remaining 25 percent.

Don Greene, director of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, said a previous $20,000 portion of a grant enabled the county to help build storm shelters for families. During previous years, the county helped provide shelters at a cost of about $3,500 per individual home. The county provided $2,000 per home, and homeowners were responsible for the remainder.

Jeane Fuller lives in a double-wide trailer in Wilsonville. She said she was unable to get a storm shelter previously because she could not provide the 25 percent matching funds.

This time, Fuller said, she will not miss the opportunity to protect herself with a storm shelter.

&uot;Material things don’t matter,&uot; Fuller said, describing the huge oak tree branches that dangle above her trailer roof. &uot;I thought about it the other day. I could be killed by a tree if nothing else.&uot;

During severe weather, Fuller remains on-guard while listening to a portable weather radio in her home.

&uot;I need to run when straight-line winds come,&uot; she said.

Currently, Fuller hides in an inside hallway of her trailer during strong storms