Seeking shelter: new safe havens in Bradley County - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Seeking shelter: new safe havens in Bradley County

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BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB-TV) -- Bradley County firefighters will soon have three new places to call their homes away from home, thanks mainly to county funding.

Thanks to more than $1 million federal dollars these facilities will have the added bonuses of above-ground bunkers. The idea was practically a no-brainer after the April 27th, 2011 tornadoes.

"We had $50 million in damage, nine lives lost that day, and it opened this community's eyes that we should do a little more planning," says Troy Spence, Bradley County Emergency Management Agency director.

Spence says each additional fire station will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will employ four to five new firefighters. The training room in each station will serve as a safe room for the public if severe storms or tornadoes approach. The facilities are replicas of each other and are being built according to FEMA standards.

"Standing on eight inch concrete inside the facility. Eight inch thick walls, solid concrete reinforced. And the roof is eight inches thick of concrete as well," explains Spence.

Each is 2500 square feet and handicap accessible. Spence says the shelters can withstand up to 200 mile-per-hour winds and the locations have been strategically thought out based mainly on population distribution.

"It was how it would serve the community in general to the biggest population in the county," says Spence.

Although it's taken nearly two years since the deadly tornado outbreak to finally begin construction, Spence says it's been worth the wait.

"We're looking to make the community a safer community," says Spence. "And whatever that takes then we're going to do that."

He's hoping the first station, located on Minnis Road near Parkview Elementary School, will be up and running by April 1st. The other facilities--one on Dalton Pike near Waterville Elementary School, the other on Georgetown Road NW near Hopewell Elementary School--Spence hopes will be completed by May 1st.

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