The Tupelo City Council approved two Monolithic Dome safe rooms — one for Lee Acres, Mississippi and the other for Theron Nichols Park, Mississippi. Each will be large enough to hold over 1,000 residents during a major storm. FEMA grants will pay 90 percent of the cost.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not endorse a building style. Instead, they created a specification (FEMA P-361) for buildings to meet standards for near-absolute protection from disaster.
“Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.” — FEMA Safe Rooms website.
Although the various announcements about the Tupelo safe rooms discuss the Monolithic Dome and FEMA, they don’t mention what the domes will be used for in-between disasters.
It’s a critical omission.
These 6,000+ square foot buildings will not sit idle. The city will likely use them as community centers or other public spaces.
Building a FEMA compliant safe room using traditional methods is possible (and various contractors do build them). They are usually dedicated spaces for emergency use only. The Monolithic Dome, on the other hand, is an affordable, general-purpose building that with a few tweaks — like stronger doors and careful design — become FEMA complaint virtually for free.
The city essentially gets two buildings for the price of one. Plus, they cut energy costs in half.
That’s a great deal.