T he new arena and coliseum housing the Baldwin County Cattle and Fair Association in Robertsdale, Ala., doubles as a disaster shelter for up to 5,000 people during a short-term emergency and 1,900 for long-term situations. Completed in January by Mobile-based White-Spunner Construction, the bunker can withstand 200-mph sustained winds and the force of a 15-pound, 12-foot-long 2x4 flying at 100 mph from any direction, according to the builder.
In order to resist uplift forces of 200 mph winds, the team designed reinforced interior concrete footings that are 14x14 feet in size and 20 inches deep. The 12-inch-thick concrete masonry unit walls have two #7 rebar reinforcing in every cell, and the roof is constructed of solid concrete six inches thick.
The building's exits feature protective alcoves with concrete right-angled walkways to protect the doors from wind-driven debris while allowing the door to be functional for emergency exiting. Impact-resistant roll-up doors shield the glass entry doors from wind and debris.
The $16.5 million project was partly funded with a grant from FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant program.