In the wake of the devastating April tornado outbreaks, Alabamians have teamed up to prepare for future natural disasters. The staff of the Alabama Concrete Industries Association and Major Ogilvie of Block USA partnered with University of Alabama professor Jim Richardson, during two weeks in June, to design and construct a concrete block safe room. On June 13, the collaborated structure was displayed at the Safer Alabama Summit in Tuscaloosa.
Hosted by the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the summit was attended by state and local officials, contractors, builders, engineers and trade associations. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley opened the event at the University of Alabama Bryant Conference Center, and was followed by speakers discussing the benefits of building safe rooms, often highlighting the strength of concrete. The keynote speaker was Dr. Ernst Kiesling, who leads the storm shelter research effort within the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Technological University, and is executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association.
Experts at the summit encouraged attendees to go back to their communities and look for opportunities and locations for safe rooms, and then, in conjunction with state, federal and other agencies, work on ways to fund and install them. There were five safe rooms, including the ACIA-collaborated room, on display at the event to illustrate the building techniques required to withstand an EF5 tornado in the home, workplace and public buildings. At the conclusion of the summit, the safe rooms were donated to FEMA who brought the models around the state to affected areas and additional seminars.