School safety is on the mind of every teacher, parent, administrator, and student. While the reason for safety can vary, this time of year the focus almost always turns to weather—in particular keeping students, teachers and staff safe through tornado season.
Most States Have No Building Requirements for Storm ProtectionFor most states and districts, there aren’t building code requirements for security or storm protection. Even though security and storm protection aren’t regulated in many places, the Districts we work with have made this a priority with almost every project CMBA does. It’s important to do what we can from a design and architecture standpoint. Since our offices and the Districts we serve are in the part of the country traditionally known as “Tornado Alley,” it would stand to reason that storm shelters are codified requirements here. But they aren’t. We have long recommended that school districts, at a minimum, provide at least “storm hardened” areas in schools. We do anticipate that storm shelters will become a requirement in the near future, though.
A New Standard in Code Books, Not Widely AdoptedThe International Code Council (ICC) is the group that creates the codes that regulate most buildings in our communities and states. They, along with the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) have created the ICC-500 Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters. Although the standard is in the code books, it has to be adopted by states and communities before it becomes a requirement. And that hasn’t happened yet, we believe that will change but can’t predict a timeline for adoption. These regulations include (but aren’t limited to):
- Impact from wind-blown objects
- Structural standards for resisting both wind and atmospheric pressure changes
- Protection from flooding
- Egress requirements
- Emergency power and lighting