More Iowa Schools Create Safe Rooms to Protect Kids from Tornadoes

Apr 7, 2017

Officials with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management say more Iowa schools are taking steps to ensure the safety of children in the event of severe weather.

With the help of federal grants, school districts are creating so-called safe rooms in elementary and secondary school buildings where students and staff can take shelter from tornadoes.  

Twenty school districts are waiting in line for roughly 30 million dollars in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We have stacked projects right now waiting for more hazard mitigation dollars and a number of schools are seeking to …. add safe rooms to their facilities,” said IDHSEM Director Mark Schouten.

Schouten says when Iowa receives disaster assistance FEMA, bonus funds are included to prevent damage from storms in the future.

“Whatever the amount is an additional 20% is paid to the state for mitigation purposes,” Schouten said.    “We've used a lot of that money for safe room creation across the state.”  

Since 1992, FEMA has paid for 72 safe room projects across Iowa, including 42 million dollars for schools.    

Interest grew after the 2013 tornado that hit an elementary school in Moore Oklahoma,  killing seven children.    

Since 1992 Schouten says 42 Iowa school districts have used 42-million dollars in grants to create safe rooms.   Some schools have created dual use spaces, making a safe room double as a wrestling room or library.   

Some schools have created dual use spaces, making a safe room double as a wrestling room or library.   

A list of safe room projects awaiting funding includes a request for 800-thousand dollars for Davis County Community Schools.   Clear Creek Amana School District  has requested $2.8 million dollars.