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Wadena Deer Creek School awarded FEMA funds for storm shelter gym

Photo by Dana Pavek/WDC Schools FEMA representative for WDC Schools Bruce Boyne, left, and WDC Superintendent Dahlstrom worked with FEMA on securing the federal grant needed to help fund the Storm Shelter.1 / 2
Photo illustration courtesy of Perkins+Will In the event of a weather-related event, the Storm Shelter facility's maximum capacity is 1,085. A generator will be housed in the mechanical room to provide power.2 / 2

Wadena-Deer Creek Public School learned this week they were successful in securing a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help fund a Storm Shelter/Safe Room Gymnasium.

WDC will receive $950,000 in FEMA funding for the Safe Room construction. The Safe Room will be 6,500 square feet and will be attached to the north side of the gymnasium at the new middle/high school.

The facility will be constructed according to FEMA guidelines, which requires the Safe Room to be designed to withstand winds up to 275 mph. The facility will be a multi-use facility serving as an additional gymnasium at the new school, which will be used by the students and community for physical education, athletic events and community events.

FEMA is assisting WDC in its recovery from the June 17, 2010 tornado. Bruce Boyne is the school's FEMA representative. He has helped WDC secure FEMA funds for the new middle/high school and now the Safe Room. Boyne explained it was William Hirte, who is the FEMA Public Assistance Officer, who suggested WDC apply for a Federal grant to provide a Safe Room for students and staff at the new middle/high school. WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom contacted James Russell, who is the State Hazard Mitigation Officer, for assistance for a grant.

The application process started with FEMA in January 2011. Boyne said the hazard mitigation safe room application process is very thorough. He spent hours researching and compiling data. He said FEMA reviews information on cost of the Safe Room, populations to be served by the proposed Safe Room, a complete study of the Safe Room location, and then uses the data Boyne provided to determine if the Safe Room project is feasible and cost-effective.

"James Russell guided us through the entire application process over the last 10 months and his assistance was invaluable to the Wadena-Deer Creek Public School's success in obtaining the FEMA grant," said Boyne.

If and when a weather-related event occurs and the Wadena County Dispatcher's Office sounds the warning sirens, dispatchers will be able to unlock and turn on the Safe Room interior and exterior lighting electronically from the Dispatcher's Office.

"This will enable the Safe Room to be a Safe Room not only for students and staff present at the school, but also make it a community safe room available should a severe weather event occur day or night, year-round," said Boyne.

Plans are to have law enforcement and school staff report to the Safe Room when it is opened electronically to assure proper procedures are followed at the Safe Room. Once the Safe Room is completed and operational, the community will be provided additional information on the Safe Room procedures.

"Should the Safe Room ever be needed to provide shelter to students, staff and community members, the value will immediately become apparent," said Boyne. "The advantage of a multi-purpose structure really makes the Safe Room a valuable addition to the entire community even though it may never be used to save lives. There is also comfort knowing it is there."

Plans are to begin construction early in the spring of 2012 with a completion date of August 2012.

Visit WDC's school website at to view the Safe Room floor plans.