Austin Peay provides underground tornado safe rooms for students

Austin Peay provides underground tornado safe rooms for students (Image 1)

Austin Peay State University has something few other colleges and Universities have – underground tornado safe rooms.

The university received $1.75 million from FEMA and TEMA to build three shelters in three new dormitories.

“In each of these facilities it [holds] about 400 students. Collectively, we have the capacity for 1,400 people,” said Bill Persinger, spokesman for APSU.

He added, “We've used them four to five times. In fact as soon as we opened it last fall we had a few alerts over the fall semester.”

The rooms can withstand 250-miles-per-hour winds and according to signs outside the shelters, a missile strike.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency recently conducted a final inspection.

When severe weather is detected near the campus, warning sirens and text messages alert students and the three tornado room are unlocked.  

“They would have a hard time not knowing what to do, especially if they live in a dormitory,” said Persinger.

He said resident assistants who live in the dorms are told to notify students room by room

“They go through the halls and bang on doors and say, 'There's a tornado warning! Go downstairs!” said Persinger.

APSU received over $1.5 million from FEMA and another $250,000 from the state.

The school came up with another $250,000 to build the shelters.

The campus was hit by a tornado in January 1999.

Persinger said other buildings have smaller tornado safe rooms. The new tornado rooms are the first to be built specifically for severe weather.

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