An exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. is highlighting the only state in the union – Alabama – that requires tornado safe rooms in new schools.
Designing for Disaster, which runs through Aug. 2, allows visitors to take a close look at how policies, plans and designs can help communities withstand natural disasters. An Alabama school, Park Crossing High School in Montgomery, is featured in a portion of the exhibit that is focused on state building codes.
Park Crossing, which opened last fall, incorporated seven safe rooms into its multi-building, 165,390-square foot campus, with the areas of refuge integrated into classrooms and music/band rehearsal spaces. Instead of building one large safe room, multiple safe rooms were distributed throughout the school so students and staff would have a shelter in close proximity.
The safe rooms span two stories and are enclosed by rebar-reinforced concrete walls designed to meet the state standards that took effect in 2010, according to the design firm, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood (GMC). Steel shutters, which also function as bulletin boards, are located within the classrooms to keep debris and broken glass from flying inside when locked. The shelters have the capacity to protect 1,200 people from 250-mile-per-hour winds.
GMC, which is based in Montgomery, also designed Central High School of Clay County and Selma Public High School, which were the first schools in the state built in compliance with the new state standards, according to the firm.