Oxford storm shelters

Workers use a crane to set a 22 ton storm shelter into place in Oxford at the DeArmanville fire station just off US Highway 78. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

DEARMANVILLE — Men with an Anniston crane company on Wednesday guided 20 tons of storm shelter to rest on a gravel pad next to the Oxford fire station in this community.

The shelter was the second placed by the crew, one of two that Oxford officials received from the Wyoming-based B’safe Shelters. The City Council in July agreed to purchase one of the shelters the company makes for $70,000, and got a second, smaller one — the one outside DeArmanville’s fire station — for free.

“They’re simple, and they’re ready to use,” the company’s owner, Tommy Goff, said Wednesday, standing inside the shelter after it was placed. Oxford officials hired Model City Erection Company to do the placing for $2,740.

Goff showed Oxford fire Chief Gary Sparks around the space, designed to fit at least 32 people inside.

“You can get more than that in here, in a bind,” Sparks said. The shelter in Bynum is larger, and rated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hold 48 people.

The interior of the smaller shelter was lit by LED light strips overhead, powered by a battery charged by solar panels. The battery also powers a small toilet.

Goff cut the city of Oxford a deal on the two shelters, he said, because officials agreed to allow him to film a documentary about the city’s receiving them.

“For us, it is beneficial,” he said. “We believe our shelters are ... the safest of the safe.”

Sparks, meanwhile, said more work remains on the shelter sites — the bottoms of both structures need to be buried to prevent air from getting underneath them in the event of a really strong storm, he said.

But he’s happy to have received the shelters. Sparks thinks of a call his agency received several years ago from Bynum, after a storm passed.

The storm knocked down trees in the area. One of those trees fell across a mobile home where an elderly woman lived, Sparks said.

“She was killed,” he remembered. He doesn’t know if she would’ve gone to a shelter, if the city had one in the area. “I do know that had we had one and she went, she would’ve lived.”

Staff writer Zach Tyler: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @ZTyler_Star.