U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Congressman Steven Palazzo announced the approval of $7.3 million to construct eight additional safe rooms in Forrest County. An additional award of$331,989 in FEMA grants will be given to the Columbus, Southaven, and Tupelo fire departments to install exhaust capture systems in their fire stations.
“The addition of these eight safe rooms will protect residents of Forrest County when severe weather strikes,” said Wicker. “I will continue to work with FEMA and local officials to invest in emergency preparedness, which will save lives.”
All eight safe rooms will be constructed at various school locations in Forrest County, including four structures in Petal, three in Hattiesburg, and one in Brooklyn. Since January, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved Hazard Mitigation Grant funding to construct 10 safe rooms in the Hattiesburg region.
“I commend the leadership in Forrest County for its diligence in pursuing resources to provide shelter for youth and residents during emergency situations,” Hyde-Smith said. “These safe rooms around the county will ensure more people survive severe weather situations.”
The stand-alone safe rooms will be constructed to withstand winds of up to 200 mph.
“The safe rooms will serve as a useful and necessary resource for the community during extreme weather events,” Palazzo said. “This ongoing mitigation project is a smart federal investment in the Pine Belt area that will help keep our citizens out of harm’s way.”
Overall, the eight projects will cost $8.7 million, with FEMA picking up almost 85 percent of the cost. In November 2015, FEMA provided $652,000 to support preliminary work on these safe rooms.
The grants for the fire stations are being made as part of the FY2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program.
“Mississippi’s firefighters put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” Wicker said. “These well-deserved grants for Columbus, Southaven, and Tupelo will support the installation of advanced safety systems that will help protect emergency personnel for years to come.”
The grants were awarded following a competitive process and include $171,410 for Columbus, $87,830 for Southaven, and $72,749 for Tupelo. The cities will use the funds to install advanced source capture exhaust systems at their fire stations to protect employees from the harmful effects of diesel exhaust fumes.
“Preparedness is the foundation for effective emergency and crisis response. These FEMA grants will help ensure local emergency responders can work in a safe environment and be ready to assist the public,” Hyde-Smith said.
The AFG program is designed to improve communities’ overall level of preparedness and ability to respond to fire and related hazards. Since FY2001, the AFG Program has provided approximately $7.1 billion in grants to first-responder organizations to obtain much-needed emergency response equipment, personal protective equipment, firefighting and emergency vehicles, and training.