School safe room installed to protects students, staff in severe weather

School safe room installed to protects students, staff in severe weather
Damage to Henryville High School from the March 2, 2012 tornado.

SALEM, Ind. (WAVE) - When storms kick up and children are still in school, there are protocols in place to make sure students are as safe as possible.

But in some cases, high wind or tornadoes can still cause significant damages to the building, putting safety at risk. One southern Indiana school is already ahead of the state in protecting its students.

Inside Bradie Shrum Elementary School in Salem, it’s the first day back at school Tuesday.

A safe room addition can protect students in staff in all kinds of severe weather.

“Now, we know we truly are safe and, if you see the signage that’s up, it tells you our safe room will withstand winds up to 250 miles an hour,” said Brent Minton, Principal at Bradie Shrum Elementary School.

School leaders had the idea for this after seeing the devastation to the schools in Henryville after a tornado swept through in 2012.

Officials worked with architect Larry Timperman and FEMA on a grant program for the safe room. The grant can take a few years to successfully complete, but pays for 75-percent of the safe room addition, the schools cover the rest.

Timperman said this is Indiana’s first school safe room, but believes others would directly benefit by following suit.

“I really believe it’s something that should be in every school facility in the future, especially new buildings that are being constructed,” said Larry Timperman of Kovert Hawkins Architects.

Salem Middle and High Schools are applying for grants to build similar additions, Crawford County is now applying too to add a safe room in an auxiliary gym of its high school, too, according to Timperman.

The safe room has hurricane-proof windows and thick walls. The room is able to handle an EF-5 tornado while still appearing to be a traditional classroom. It’s able to withstand storms that traditional schools and buildings aren’t built for, despite being up to code.

"International building code doesn’t require buildings be designed to this standard, it’s much less,” Timperman said.

Bradie Shrum has had this safe room in place now for more than one year, and it’s already come in handy in cases of severe weather last spring.

“There was a tornado warning that went out for our area,” Minton said. "We evacuated to this part of the building. Our students came to these rooms, sat, watched a movie, had no idea what was going on outside. They didn’t worry about it. It was safety, it was peace of mind and peace of mind not just for the kids but for all the staff and I would hope, all the parents. We are protecting our investment for our future. It’s not just a building, we’re protecting our future here.”

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