"I realized then that our residents didn't have a chance if we took a direct hit," says David Roden.
After the April 2011, tornadoes he wanted to make Mountain View Estates mobile home park safer for its residents. He and his wife have owned and lived at the Rossville, Georgia property since 1988. It suffered only minor damage from the storms, but nearby neighborhoods weren't as fortunate. Roden immediately looked into a storm shelter for his tight-knit community.
"We're not just a business," says Roden. "It's a family here and we all look out for each other."
After a few years of research, Roden finally found the right shelter and could afford to have it recently installed.
The FEMA-compliant above-ground bunker, manufactured in south Georgia, is made of one-quarter inch steel, is welded and bolted to a concrete slab, and holds up to 200 people. It can withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour.
"We realize that while we could replace their home, we can replace their cars--we can not replace their lives," adds Roden.
The unit is accessible for the handicapped, is well-ventilated, and has outlets available for oxygen tanks. Roden installed a backup generator in case of a power outage, and he put a NOAA weather radio in the shelter in order to receive storm warning information while in the unit. It comes with two entrance/exit doors in case one gets blocked by downed trees.
James Carroll and his family moved here back in March. They've narrowly survived hurricanes and tornadoes in Texas and Alabama and appreciate the Rodens' commitment to keeping everyone safe.
"I was thrilled to hear that they were going to have something because a mobile home is no match for any kind of storm, hardly," says Carroll. "It's peace of mind."
It's peace of mind with a six-figure price tag, but Roden says it's hard to put a price on reassurance.
"First time in our lives we've never really worried what our plan is in the event of a tornado," says Roden. "It's the most money I've ever spent that I hope I'll never have to use."
Some of the cost is included in the residents' monthly lot rates. Of course, during severe weather, pets are allowed in the bunker as long as they're muzzled or crated. To prepare for the next round of strong storms, Roden plans to hold a simulated tornado drill for the residents at the end of October.