Inside a room made of reinforced concrete blocks and a double-layered steel roof, Pam Tucker turns three deadbolt locks on a steel door. She is prepared for a tornado.
"It's like a bank vault," she says, looking around the room. "And people have survived some of the worst tornadoes in history working in banks and going into the vaults."
Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director, is inside the Safe Room at Columbia County's Emergency Management Agency office - a first of its kind in Georgia, she said.
The room is equipped to withstand winds up to 250 mph. Its design was first used three years ago in the West to replace underground outdoor shelters. Tucker's goal is to take her premier example and market it to the county and beyond.
"This was paid (for) with a grant" from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said, adding that the Safe Room cost about $7,000 to build. "FEMA will be using what we did and the education pieces as a prototype for the whole country.
"We're the only one in Georgia that got the grant. And we're going to go ahead and present our education piece to every county in the state."
Disaster supplies to keep on hand:
Flashlight and extra batteries
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
First aid kit and manual
Emergency food and water
Nonelectric can opener
Cash and credit cards
For more informations, go to Columbia County Emergency Management Agency's Severe Weather Awareness Week Web site:
Tucker said tours of the Safe Room will be given to the public to increase interest.
"This is our goal," she said. "If you have an existing home, you could retrofit a laundry room, utility room or a closet. And a small room like that wouldn't cost that much. Then, you've got a room right inside your home that you could put your family in really quickly."
She said a Safe Room built into a new house would be about the size of a closet and cost $2,500. Retrofitting one into an existing closet would cost $4,000 to $6,000.
The Safe Room at Tucker's office cost $7,000 because of its larger size - 8 feet by 8 feet.
"We know it's going to be slow in the beginning," Tucker said. "But the hope is, and especially in Columbia County with all the new subdivisions coming up all the time, (that) builders and people looking to build a home would put this in their plans."
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