FOLEY – Foley first responders and other emergency personnel will have a safe location in which to ride out hurricanes and other emergencies.

The Foley City Council voted Monday, May 20, to accept a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The grant will pay 90% of the costs of building a safe room, a shelter for emergency personnel.

The facility will provide a location where first responders can take shelter during a hurricane or other event in order to be available for service as soon as possible.

David Wilson, Foley executive director of public safety, said city officials have been developing plans for the facility, but were awaiting approval and funding from FEMA.

“I’m very pleased to announce that our long-awaited green light for the safe room has been given by FEMA,” Wilson said. “This is a safe or secure facility that first responders can operate from during hurricanes and other emergencies. It’s nearly 10,000 square feet in total size.”

The shelter will house more than 200 people during a hurricane and will be constructed to withstand winds of up to 200 miles an hour. The facility will also be equipped with a 400 kilowatt generator that can run on either natural gas or diesel fuel.

The building will also include kitchen facilities and everything needed to house personnel during an emergency.

The facility will be built on city property on North Poplar Street north of the site where the Public Works campus is under construction and south of East Berry Avenue. 

The location is a convenient site for city operations, Mayor Ralph Hellmich said.

“It’s very close to City Hall,” Hellmich said. “It also has a lot of main facilities for electrical and gas and water. We looked at about 10 different sites. That one made the most sense.”

The building can also be used as a command post if other city facilities are damaged during a storm or other event.

The facility is expected to cost about $5.58 million. The city’s share of the cost will be 10% of the total.

WIlson said the facility can also be used as a training center when the room is not needed as a hurricane shelter.

Fire Chief Joey Darby said additional emergency training facilities will be a benefit for Foley.

“We’re always happy, when we can, to host folks but, for example, last week, we hosted the Police Department all week in our training room upstairs at Fire Station One,” Darby said. “While we’re happy to host them, there’s a lot of activity in and out. This will keep us from disrupting normal operations and give us both a dedicated, really nice facility to do training classes. I think it’ll actually spark more hosting of classes here. So that’s a great thing.”