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FEMA Funds Dome Tornado Shelters in Two Ohio Mobile Home Parks

Image: Tornado Shelter/Community Center at Wilkins Park in Licking County, Ohio.  Safe for 125 occupants.  Funded ¼ by Mobile Home Park and ¾ by FEMA.  First of its kind.  Built 2010.

Tornado Shelter/Community Center at Wilkins Park in Licking County, Ohio.  Safe for 125 occupants.  Funded ¼ by Mobile Home Park and ¾ by FEMA.  First of its kind.  Built 2010.


Residents of mobile home parks are among the most vulnerable to tornadoes. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, about half of tornado fatalities occur in mobile homes even though only 7 percent of the population lives in these types of manufactured homes.

That’s one of the reasons why the Federal Emergency Management Agency is helping fund construction of steel-reinforced, concrete Monolithic Dome shelters at two mobile home parks in Licking County, Ohio. The structures, which will be the first of their kind ever to be built in mobile home parks, meet FEMA standards for design and construction of community safe rooms and also offer near-absolute protection from tornadoes.

“Every year, we see lives lost as tornadoes wreak havoc on mobile home parks,” said David B. South, president of the Monolithic Dome Institute. “We are delighted that FEMA has agreed to fund construction of these structures, which are sure to offer protection for decades to come.”

Monolithic Domes that double as community disaster shelters have been built by schools and churches across the nation, and FEMA recently funded construction of a Monolithic Dome preschool in Niangua, Missouri. But the Ohio domes will be the first ever to be built in mobile home parks.

One of the Monolithic Domes is built at the Summit Ridge Estates, a community of manufactured homes in Pataskala, Ohio. It is 50 feet in diameter, or nearly 2,000 square feet, and will hold 315 occupants. The second Monolithic Dome is constructed at Wilkins Park in Newark, Ohio. It measures, 32 feet in diameter, or about 800 square feet, and will hold 125 occupants.

FEMA is funding 75 percent of the cost of the two structures as part of the $775,000 pre-disaster mitigation grant it provided to Licking County Commissioners. The owners of the manufactured home communities are funding the other 25 percent of the construction costs.

Jim Mickey, environmental planner for Licking County’s Planning Department, said there is enough grant money left over to fund construction of dome shelters in four more mobile home communities that have already been identified. Construction is pending agreements with the owners who must pay 25 percent of the construction costs. If agreements cannot be reached, any unused grant money must be returned by July 31st, 2010.

“Our goal is to reduce injuries and save lives by building shelters that will protect the occupants during tornado events and severe weather,” said Mickey, who spearheaded the grant application for the county. “Monolithic Domes were the best option both because of the initial costs and also because of the cost of operation over the long run.”

Not only are Monolithic Domes less expensive to build than traditional tornado shelters, but they also are extremely energy efficient, costing as much as 50 percent less to heat and cool than other structures of the same size.

Monolithic Domes meet FEMA standards for near-absolute protection both because of their shape and the materials used in their construction. Concrete in a curved shape reinforced with steel rebar is stronger than any other type of building, according to Arnold Wilson, professor emeritus of civil engineering at Brigham Young University and a consulting engineer for MDI.

Monolithic Domes can sustain winds of up to 300 miles per hour (100 more than required by FEMA). In contrast, any wind gust of more than 50 miles per hour, sustained for at last three seconds, can cause damage to a manufactured home.

Read more

Columbus Dispatch article: Domes to shield tornado-vulnerable

Newark Advocate article: Grant to help build Newark, Pataskala tornado shelters