BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) – Hurricane Michael tested the strength of every building in Bay County.
Now some of Bay County’s different cities are preparing for future storms by building safe rooms.
Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen said these will ensure the protection of the city employees and ensure they have the manpower to support those in need.
“We went forward and submitted requests for hazard mitigation grants that can assist us with hardening our facilities,” McQueen said. “So that we have safe places for our employees to shelter in place and be able to respond immediately after the storm passes.”
McQueen said they plan to build six safe rooms within different city facilities.
Three will be at Panama City fire stations, one at the public works department, one at the utilities department and an emergency operations center at or near the police station. Each will be generator powered.
“That will help to be a base of operations for them to operate from as they are serving our citizens after a disaster,” McQueen said.
McQueen said state Hazard Mitigation Grants will fund the six million dollar project. It will take about a year to build.
Last week, the Panama City Beach City Council also approved plans to build a safe room. Theirs will be at Frank Brown Park.
Panama City Beach City Council member Geoff McConnel said it is critical to make sure people have a safe place to be during these destructive events.
“This is going to hold up to 1000 people that are there,” McConnell said. “So if a tornado event comes through or a hurricane event comes through it can withstand up to 200 miles per hour wind. They can come in and seek shelter and be safe.”
McConnel said they’re getting a $4.9 million FEMA grant for their shelter, which would be available to any Panama City Beach resident.
Panama City officials say they will still send representatives to the Bay County Emergency Operations Center during a disaster.
These rooms will just ensure quicker response times for employees to help those in need.
We also reached out to Lynn Haven city officials who say they do not have any plans to build safe rooms within their new facilities as of right now.
However, they say their new city hall and police department will be built to withstand wind impacts during storms.