Federal Grant to Help Dover, Ohio, Get Downtown Tornado Shelter

To ensure that the city's safety forces are protected from severe weather, the administration plans to build a small, short-term tornado shelter downtown — the "safe room," with capacity for 101 people for up to two hours.

by Nancy Molnar, The Times-Reporter, New Philadelphia, Ohio / January 22, 2020

(TNS) — When disaster strikes, police and firefighters are supposed to be available to help save lives and property.

But tornadoes don't care about that.

A twister destroyed the Mineral City fire station in 2013. More recently and farther away, a tornado destroyed a fire station Oct. 20 in Dallas, Texas.

Tornadoes have gone through or near Dover three times in the past 15 years, according to Dover Fire Chief Russell Volkert.

To make sure that the city's safety forces are protected from severe weather, the administration is planning to build a small, short-term tornado shelter downtown. The "safe room," with a capacity to hold 101 people for up to two hours, would also be open to downtown business staffers and visitors who may have nowhere else to stay during a tornado warning.

The one-story, 37-by-23-foot reinforced concrete structure is expected to be built in 2021 in what is now a parking lot east of the fire department and south of the city auditor's office at 116 E. Third St.

It will be designed to offer protection from an EF-5 tornado and withstand 250 mph winds.

The total cost is projected at $239,912, of which $179,934 is to be covered by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The city and the state are to split the remaining $59,978 in expenses. It is expected to have a useful life of 50 years, according to the city's grant application.

The building will have a white roof. The walls will be crimson and gray, the colors of local school sports teams, the Tornadoes.

The shelter will be open to downtown business staff and other visitors. Many central business district buildings, constructed of soft brick and limestone mortar between 1870 and 1920, may not be the best shelter during tornadoes, Volkert said. Employees may not even know how to get into the basement.

The shelter will serve a second purpose as a storage area for firefighter turnout gear, which emits cancer-causing gases absorbed at fires. The building will have lockers to store those items separate from firefighters' office and living quarters.

The tornado shelter will also have a land-line telephone and radios for emergency communications.

The public is to be notified about the shelter's availability through the downtown public address system in the event of a tornado warning.

Volkert views the safe room as an addition to such safety measures as the 19 tornado sirens installed in Dover, Dover Township and New Philadelphia. They are designed to warn to people who are outdoors.

He noted that while Ohio's peak tornado season has generally been from April through July, tornadoes can and have occurred in every month of the year.

Reach Nancy at 330-364-8402 or nancy.molnar@timesreporter.com.

On Twitter: @nmolnarTR

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