Smithton High School puts tornado safe rooms in basement

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SMITHTON - At the beginning of the school year, Smithton R-VI School District put three classrooms in the basement of Smithton High School as tornado shelters.

The classrooms are used during the school day for teaching. Previously, the rooms were used as storage for hardware tools.

Pettis County Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Dave Clippert said the reason the school put the "safe rooms" in the basement is due to the time and distance it takes to get people to safety.

Across the street from the high school is a FEMA safe room, but it takes the school about eight minutes to evacuate about 700 students and staff.

The FEMA safe room across from Smithton High School can hold up 1,000 people.

Each of the three new classrooms fits between 25 to 30 students comfortably.

There are nine FEMA shelters in Pettis County.

The Smithton School District did this project on its own and did not receive help from FEMA.

Columbia Public Schools Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said her school district has unsuccessfully applied to FEMA for funding several times to build storm shelter facilities. Baumstark said she thinks Columbia Public Schools does not receive funding from FEMA because it is hard to build a shelter to accommodate about 17-18 thousand in Columbia Public Schools.