TALLADEGA -- The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind bolstered its safety and security with the addition of three tornado storm shelters valued at $1.5 million.

Institute officials joined architects, representatives from the State Building Commission, Metro D Construction and Modular Connections Wednesday morning for the final walkthrough of the shelters, located at the Alabama School for the Blind, E.H. Gentry Technical Facility and Helen Keller School of Alabama.

“This was our final inspection walkthrough,” AIDB President Dr. John Mascia said. “All the buildings are substantially completed. There are a few minor issues that need to be rectified, but nothing major and nothing that kept us from signing off on the paperwork for these buildings.”

Mascia explained that the group visited each building checking generators, emergency lighting and other key facets to ensure each component is operational.

“Everything works, and these buildings are ready for use,” Mascia said. “It’s gratifying to see the project come to completion. It’s the first time in my life that we’ve planned and built buildings that, God willing, we’ll never have to use, but it’s very comforting to know we have these storm shelters in case we might need them.”

According to AIDB Director of Institutional Advancement Lynne Hanner, the concrete-and-steel buildings, capable of withstanding up to 250 mph winds, are loaded with emergency supplies should an issue arise, and are aesthetically appealing structures.

“The buildings are really well manicured,” Hanner said. “They don’t really stand out like a sore thumb, and really blend in well with the landscape.”

The current leadership at AIDB continued the dream of former AIDB President Dr. Terry Graham, who began the initial push for these buildings by working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the devastating tornadoes that ravaged the state on April 27, 2011.

 “It was his last major building project,” Mascia said. “He was responsible for raising the majority of the funds. After he retired, we did have to complete the funding package, but most of the funding was already in place. We continued working with the architects on the planning of this project, but this project is completed today because he felt so strongly, after the April 2011 tornadoes, that there was nothing more important than ensuring our children and staff members have a safe place to go if, God forbid, we ever had another weather situation as we did that day.”

Hanner said a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the buildings will most likely occur in the fall when students return to campus.