Three Baton Rouge emergency shelters are in the works after floods in 2016 highlighted the need for safe buildings that could house emergency personnel across the city-parish.
Baton Rouge Recreation and Parks Commission officials announced Tuesday that the agency's architects are designing three recreation centers in a way that will meet FEMA standards so they can double as emergency shelters.
Clay Rives, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said the “safe rooms” are among many projects that Baton Rouge officials want to pursue with federal hazard mitigation grant money. While drainage is the main focus of the grant money, Rives said, the emergency shelters are eligible as well.
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If approved by FEMA, the recreation centers would be located at BREC’s Greenwood Park in Baker, Memorial Stadium near downtown Baton Rouge and Airline Highway Park near the Ascension parish border.
“Geographically, where we’re located, our threat from hurricanes is the wind,” Rives said. “This structure would be built to where we can house our first responders. As soon as the winds clear (and) it’s safe to go out, we can leave that building and go out to assess things.”
If FEMA agrees to build the recreation centers that would double as “safe rooms,” BREC would be required to pick up 25 percent of the cost while the federal government would pay 75 percent of construction costs and engineering fees. BREC released a statement that said a 20,000-square foot recreation building that met FEMA standards would cost around $5.5 million — with $1.4 million coming from local dollars.
The facilities would be able to withstand high winds, debris impacts and meet FEMA’s requirements for flood elevation. The Airline Highway site is the only one of the three that flooded in 2016.
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The buildings would also offer recreation, meeting and event spaces during non-emergencies, BREC said.
Rives said the city-parish will soon start work on another emergency shelter project using federal money after a previous disaster. He said that safe room will be next to the MOHSEP building on Harding Boulevard near the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.
First responders from other nearby parishes could use the safe rooms in Baton Rouge during disasters as well, Rives said.
BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said in a statement the facilities could ensure that emergency personnel have quick response times to nearby disasters while also giving them a safe place to rest.