Autauga County storm shelter prepared for possible severe weather

Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 10:05 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2023 at 10:19 PM CST
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PRATTVILLE, Ala. (WSFA) - On the outside, First Baptist Church Posey Crossroads looks like any other church in Autauga County, but on the inside it’s designed to withstand some of the harshest storms.

“This actual shelter is designed to take a direct hit from an F5 tornado,” said Autauga County Emergency Management Agency director Ernie Baggett.

He believes having the county’s most durable shelters inside churches ensures they are not neglected over the years.

The shelter at First Baptist Church Posey Crossroads is regularly used as a classroom, meaning it is air conditioned and cleaned.

It can fit up to 100 people, but the most it has ever hosted was 65, officials said. It is one of two Federal Emergency Management Agency-rated storm shelters in the area.

The room is made of cinder block and protected by a steel door. The EMA director said a similar shelter exists at Boones Chapel Baptist Church.

Other organizations also open their doors. The EMA refers to those locations as “safer places.”

“Today’s really the day to be kind of figuring that stuff out,” Baggett said. “Know where you’re going to go, so you can determine how long it’s going to take you to get there.”

Individuals who leave their home seeking shelter could be driving in the dark or rain. They may need to plan for more time to arrive safely.

The pastor, Tom Jordan, said his church is prepared to welcome people inside their shelter if severe weather strikes. They will post updates on Facebook.

“As a church, we want to give people an opportunity to have a safe place to come and to show our love and compassion towards this community,” Jordan said. “That’s why this storm shelter was put in.”

The EMA director stressed it is important to be prepared and know your options.

“If you don’t feel comfortable where you are, go ahead and make some arrangements today,” Baggett said.

He also wants people to make sure their weather radios have fresh batteries because tornado sirens are not meant to be heard indoors.

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