Lawrence County EMA: Residents Now Much Better Protected than on April 27, 2011

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It seems hard to believe, but on April 27th, 2011, Lawrence County had only one community tornado shelter offering safety during severe weather.

One year later, there are six, with ten more awaiting approval to be built.

The new shelters are evidence of a lesson learned from a horrific experience.

A case in point is the new community shelter in Caddo.  It will protect dozens of people who had only one place to go for protection last year, as a line of tornadoes ripped through the county.

“It made us realize that we really, as far as shelters, weren’t prepared for it,” said Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency Director Hillard Frost of the disaster of April 27, 2011.

Frost said many people, from citizens to leaders, found out that the lone shelter in Moulton that protected 700 people was severely insufficient.

Since that day, the county has added community shelters, which can accommodate 100 people in each, in Mt. Hope, Red Bank, Courtland and Town Creek.

And the Federal Emergency Management Agency made good on its promise to help.

FEMA picked up 75% of the costs for each community shelter.  Each cost up to $75,000.  The county provided the other 25%.

“We’re much better now than we was last year in April,” said Frost.

And there’s more.

In the aftermath of April 27th, back-up generators struggled to supply the power Lawrence County emergency officials needed, since the county’s large and old one malfunctioned and died.

“Since then, we have installed a new generator in our Emergency Operations Center,” said Frost.  “And we’ve also purchased another backup generator just in case that one goes down.”

He said the Tennessee Valley Authority shared the cost of those, since Lawrence County is within 10 miles of the Brownsferry Nuclear Plant.

Frost said with the resources he has now, and ten more community shelters in the works, Lawrence County came out much safer from the disaster in the long run.

He estimated about 100 Lawrence County residents built their own tornado shelters at their homes.

Frost said moving forward, the county is trying to pinpoint a better location for volunteers to go to sign up to help, other than the EMA office, in the event of a future disaster.

Check this updated list of storm shelters for each county.

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