Page 100 - Security Today, September/October 2021
P. 100

"In 2020, the U.S. experienced a particularly active North Atlantic hurricane season with a record-breaking 11 storms making landfall— including six hurricanes."
By Heather Bender
Safe Rooms
Providing Safer School Communities
Understanding grant requirements helps fund life-saving building projects
Studio MDF/
Many of us have experienced it. The dark greenish- gray sky and the strange stillness that happens just as ominous storm clouds gather. Even before a cell phone signals a weather alert, instinct tells us to find secure shelter, and with good reason.
While only a small fraction of storms create extreme weather con- ditions, the United States has more tornadoes than any other country in the world. With an average of over 1,000 tornadoes per year, no state is free from their threat. In 2020, the U.S. experienced a particu- larly active North Atlantic hurricane season with a record-breaking 11 storms making landfall—including six hurricanes.
Because huge storms move so swiftly and in such unpredictable ways, schools need to be prepared to protect students quickly. Extreme weather tragedies are caused by flying debris, so it is of utmost importance to construct storm shelters to code, including adequately protecting windows and securing areas with storm doors rated to meet ICC500 testing criteria for extreme weather.
Evolving Building Standards for Increased Protection
To meet the current IBC requirements, all educational facilities with more than 50 occupants must provide a safe room to protect students and staff from tornadoes and other extreme weather events in certain areas of the country such as Tornado Alley in accordance with ICC500 standards.
In addition, educational facilities are subject to ICC-500 standards in states or localities that have adopted IBC 2015 or newer and are in an area that has an increased risk of tornadoes (ICC500/FEMA-P361 provides a map for guidance). This requirement applies to any new
construction, retrofit addition, or significant improvement project and is included in 2015 IBC and 2018 IBC. ICC-500 provides the minimum requirements for safety relative to the design, construc- tion, and installation of storm shelters built for protection from high winds and impacts associated with extreme weather.
Manufacturers offer advanced rolling steel doors designed specifi- cally for safe room protection against life-threatening tornadoes and hurricanes. However, only a few rolling door products are tested and certified to meet both ICC-500 and FEMA P-361 standards – a requirement to be included in an ICC500 rated shelter. It is important to specify a door from a manufacturer that meets these necessary standards to receive a FEMA grant, including the newly instituted BRIC option.
There is another factor to note when schools are planning to apply for funding. All FEMA safe rooms designed and constructed for edu- cational facilities must follow the most recent edition of the FEMA publication Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms (FEMA P-361).
Funding Safe Rooms and Storm Shelters in School Facilities
Storm shelters and safe rooms are common throughout Tornado Alley, a region that encompasses part of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and eastern Colorado. It is an area infa- mous for having the most powerful and destructive storms. However, these life-saving spaces are not as common nationwide, even though tornadoes have touched down in all 50 states.
Lack of funding and challenges navigating building codes and con- struction guidelines are frequent obstacles to making storm shelters a reality for many school districts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) replaced its Pre-Disaster Mitigation program with the Building Resilient Infra- structure and Communities (BRIC) competitive grant program in 2020 to facilitate funding and encourage advanced planning for extreme weather. The new BRIC program supports state and local governments by encouraging them to shift their focus to proactively protecting their communities.
BRIC applications are reviewed on an annual basis, and school districts may submit safe room or storm shelter projects that meet the following requirements:
• Cost-effective
• Reduces or eliminates risk and damage from future natural haz- ards—such as extreme weather
• Follows one of the latest International Building Codes (IBC)— either 2015 or 2018
• Aligns with an applicable hazard mitigation plan
• Meetsenvironmentalandhistoricpreservation(EHP)requirements
Wind Load and What It Means for Your Facility
By specifying commercial rolling doors and shutters that meet strict

   98   99   100   101   102