TLM’s Jason Pirtle Presents School Safe Room Innovations at National Tornado Summit

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Jason Pirtle, P.E., senior structural engineer at TLM Associates, Inc., spoke at the 2014 National Tornado Summit in Oklahoma City, Okla. about creating safe rooms within schools’ existing hallways. The tornado shelters are retrofitted in partnership with Remagen SafeRooms, and they provide schools with a space that meets all FEMA 361 and ICC 500 requirements for loading, impact and life safety.

Before and After School Safe Room Retrofit

With our retrofit, they still just walk out of the classroom and shut the door. The difference is that the tornado safe room retrofit provides them with protection engineered specifically to resist tornadic winds.

During severe weather season when school tornado drills and storm safety are especially important concerns, an architectural and engineering firm is providing an innovative solution to keep children safe. Jason Pirtle, P.E., senior structural engineer at TLM Associates, Inc., spoke at the 2014 National Tornado Summit in Oklahoma City, Okla. about creating safe rooms within schools’ existing hallways. The tornado shelters are retrofitted in partnership with Remagen SafeRooms, and they provide schools with a space that meets all FEMA 361 and ICC 500 requirements for loading, impact and life safety.

“About 1200 tornadoes hit the U.S. each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and members of our firm have seen some of their devastation first hand. That is what drives us to provide these storm shelters to keep our most valuable assets safe — our people,” explained Pirtle. “During a tornado, teachers and students normally take refuge in hallways. With our retrofit, they still just walk out of the classroom and shut the door. The difference is that the tornado safe room retrofit provides them with protection engineered specifically to resist tornadic winds.” Pirtle, a professional member of the National Storm Shelter Association, is recognized by NSSA as a third-party reviewer of safe rooms.

TLM can complete the project without interruption to the school year and with minimal interference on site (http://tlmae.com/saferooms). For example, a 4,700-square-foot retrofit that protects 900 occupants was completed in 10 weeks, which is the normal duration of summer break. With no functional changes to the hallway, only about 12 inches are lost from its width. The design and construction of these projects has been completed with FEMA grant funds.

The shelters are designed to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour (the code standard on safe rooms’ highest design wind speed). While not the primary focus, school systems also use the safe room retrofits as part of their emergency plan in the event of an intruder. The panel system has resisted the impact of high caliber ammunition.

Chad Yearwood, National Tornado Summit Co-Chair, said, “Now more than ever, communities across the country are committed to building safer schools. That’s why Jason’s presentation on unique construction options was so important. We appreciate his willingness to share his insight, knowledge and expertise at the National Tornado Summit.”

The National Tornado Summit, in its third year, had 1,050 attendees from 40 states in the areas of emergency management, insurance claims and adjusting and meteorology. The summit’s goal is to improve disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery in order to save lives and property in the United States (http://www.tornadosummit.org).

TLM Associates, Inc. (http://tlmae.com) is a professional architectural and engineering firm that has been serving the Mid South since 1964. The firm consists of registered, licensed professional architects and engineers, along with experienced design professionals and technical personnel specializing in architectural and engineering services. The firm's address is 117 East Lafayette St., Jackson, TN 38301. Those who want more information can call 731-988-9840 or email j.pirtle(at)tlmae(dot)com.

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Dawn Bramblett
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