Columbus city leaders tour Chickasaw County storm shelters

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CHICKASAW COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – The tornado that struck Columbus earlier this year prompted city leaders to move quickly to get storm shelters built.

Currently, the city has no storm shelters. Now that leaders have the go-ahead for FEMA approved shelters they’re planning on changing that.

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Tuesday morning, Columbus officials traveled to a nearby county with more than 30 shelters to see how the process works.

As Chickasaw County’s EMA director, Linda Griffin knows what it takes to get FEMA approved storm shelters in the area.

Griffin is helping Columbus city leaders navigate the paperwork and process to get their own FEMA approved shelters.

“We have 33 locations, fire departments, governmental buildings, voting precincts, we have these set up,” said Griffin.

Griffin took the Columbus team on a tour of two Chickasaw County storm shelters. Since 2003, Griffin has applied for the storm shelters. FEMA picks up 75% of the cost.  The 6 x 12 foot shelters feature six-inch thick concrete walls brought to a site and then strapped into the ground which are then ready to use.

Griffin gave Columbus leaders many helpful insights.

“You have to take into consideration, parking available, make sure you have enough parking for everybody who is going to utilize this building, no major highways , they have to cross to get to it, or railroad service, has to be easy access for the community as well as for those stationed at the departments,” said Griffin.

Columbus leaders are adopting a similar strategy. They want to place these storm shelters at fire stations across the city, to keep first responders and the public safe. It’s also to help emergency personnel be ready to respond as quickly as possible, after a weather event.

“For years we have looked at the approach of one facility, questioned where to put it, we then heard this approach Chickasaw County has, and thought it was an interesting take, spread them throughout the city, that way more people can get to them, secondly, those people who protect us, first responders, need to be protected as well, if they can’t get out in the field how can they do their job,” said Kevin Stafford, Columbus City Engineer.

Columbus has five fire stations in the city. Each fire station will get two shelters, and one station will get three. Paperwork could be submitted in a couple of weeks and the shelters could be in place next year.

Each shelter has a price tag of about $5,000. Mayor Robert Smith also said the city will apply for more shelters each year.

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