St. Charles fire station equipped with tornado shelters

ST. CHARLES, Mo. - Marking the one year anniversary of the deadly tornado in Moore, Oklahoma underscores the necessity of having a safe place to go during a tornado.

St. Charles firefighters got that message loud and clear a few years earlier when they helped out after Joplin's tornado.

It's dark, and would be crowded and uncomfortable with up to 10 people inside, but a tornado shelter tucked under a staircase is better than going up against tornado winds. It is installed in a new firehouse St. Charles is about to take ownership of by the end of the week. It's not the only safe place here or in the city.

A new firehouse not only means fresh paint, but a fresh palette for making safety a priority. Aside from this storm shelter, there's a larger option, a fortified room built into the center of the structure.

"What we have is we have the cinder block walls that are reinforced with concrete, we also have a concrete ceiling in here," said Captain Dan Casey. "You know it's important that the emergency responders are the guys and gals who are the ones who are protected because they're the ones who are going to be responding to everybody else's problems."

It's something St. Charles first responders witnessed when they went to Joplin to assist.

"The guys that were actually on duty lost a couple of firehouses," said Casey.

That model comes from a company based in the Joplin area, but some companies, like Triple AAA Zoellner Materials in Imperial, also make a version. The ready mix producer wanted to diversify.

"We've sold about one a year," said owner Patrick Zoellner.

They have not been a big seller. Zoellner thinks homeowners and companies may be scared off by the more than $4,000 price tag.

"There's other options that are on the market that probably aren't quite up to the specification or the build, so the almighty dollar does the talking," he said.

There are two shelters in the new St. Charles firehouse because there will be a lot of people at that building. It's also used for administrative staff, training and other things.

Two other existing fire houses in St. Charles also have one, those that don't have basements.


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