TCMH is expected to receive funds for a tornado safe room at its facility on South Sam Houston Blvd. in Houston.

Texas County Memorial Hospital has received approval for a 4,000 square foot, $897,000 tornado safe room from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), hospital board members heard last week at their monthly meeting.

In August 2009, TCMH submitted a “notice of interest” to FEMA indicating the hospital’s interest in putting a tornado safe room on the hospital’s campus that could also be used as meeting or waiting space. After FEMA reviewed the notice, TCMH was invited to submit a formal application, which was done in June 2010.

“We are the only hospital in the state that applied for a tornado safe room,” said Wes Murray, chief executive officer.

The tornado safe room project totaled $897,000 — and $750,000 of that project was FEMA approved. FEMA does not cover expenses for some parts of tornado safe room projects such as the heating and air conditioning or more than one bathroom. FEMA will cover 75 percent of the approved portion of building, which totals $562,500 for the project.

TCMH has applied for a one-year extension with FEMA for the tornado safe room project.

“Now that we have the main hospital expansion going, we aren’t able to move forward on the FEMA tornado safe room for at least one year,” Murray explained. “But after we get our new medical surgical wing built, this space would fit very nicely into the timeline.”

Murray also explained that the tornado safe room is a “pretty big opportunity” for TCMH.

“We have known all along that the planned expansion and remodeling project would only satisfy a portion of our patient care needs,” Murray said.

The tornado safe room construction could be tied in with a potential “phase 3” for the hospital to also renovate surgery, obstetrics and intensive care – patient care areas of the hospital that are not being addressed with the current planned construction and renovation.

“Everyone has been touched by the recent disasters across our state, which makes a space like this even more important for our hospital and our community,” Murray said. The City of Houston received a similar grant that resulted in construction of a shelter at First and Pine streets in Houston.

The tornado safe room would be at the south end of the hospital. The south wing of the hospital would be removed to accommodate the room. Plans were in place to eliminate use for the south wing as a patient care area after the hospital’s new medical surgical floor was built in the proposed expansion.

The tornado safe room would accommodate 462 people, which could include patients in wheelchairs or beds as well as members of the community and hospital staff.

TCMH officials should receive formal word for the project extension within a month or two.

“I’m not yet sure if we will be able to add this tornado safe room to our planned construction, but this is another big opportunity for us,” Murray said.


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