Shell Point Retirement Community Has Hurricane Shelter On-Site
NOTE-THIS FACILITY IS NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
FORT MYERS, FL (September 11, 2009) – Where’s the safest place to be in a hurricane? For residents of Shell Point the answer is simple – and close to home.
Shell Point residents, and employees, are able to “weather” tropical storms and hurricanes in the facility’s parking garage, which doubles as a hurricane shelter strong enough to withstand a Category Five storm with winds up to 200 mph and beyond. The on-site shelter was built in 1994, after Shell Point’s directors realized the ineffectiveness of an off-site evacuation of residents, including some who are bedfast, in the event of a hurricane.
To maximize the shelter’s year-round usefulness, planners chose a parking garage design, which serves as its everyday function. The designers and contractors set much more stringent criteria than building codes required at the time, making it quite possibly the sturdiest parking garage in the state, and certainly one of the safest hurricane shelters in a retirement community. Its foundation is made of precast concrete piles driven into bearing soils approximately 65 to 70 feet below grade. The construction also used precast concrete elevated floor and roof slabs, and precast beams, columns, and shearwalls.
The storm shutters and doors are made of aluminum and stainless steel with all stainless steel fasteners. In preparation for a storm, they will swing down over openings and be bolted in place to seal off the building from wind, rain, and flying debris. One inch thick rubber gaskets around the panels seal any cracks around the frames. To prevent leakage, the roof was coated with 1,400 gallons of roof coating material, while 215 gallons of caulking was used throughout the rest of the building. All mechanical equipment, including the emergency generator and roof top exhaust fans, are protected with precast concrete shrouds for intake and exhaust.
The generator, which is located on the second floor within the shelter, sits on a 1,000 gallon fuel tank, and will burn about six gallons per hour at a 70 percent load for one full week of operation. Coupled with emergency food and water supplies, the shelter is able to provide a safe and nominally hospitable environment for Shell Point’s 2,100 residents and select employees for more than a week.
Extensive testing was conducted throughout the design process to determine the shelter’s ability to meet the specific design criteria. To calculate its wind resistance, a wind tunnel test on a scale model of the building was used. The model was connected to a computer by 300 taps that sensed the wind pressure throughout the model and was the basis for the engineering standards for the building. The shutters and doors were tested for impact using criteria set by Miami/Dade County. The test used a nine-pound wooden 2×4 shot out of a cannon at 50 feet per second, which “barely scratched the surface,” according to Bob Southern, Project Development Director for Shell Point. Altogether, the building weighs approximately 15 million pounds.
In 2004, the Shell Point hurricane shelter saw the action of a true hurricane when hurricane Charley set its sights on Southwest Florida. While the hurricane advanced in the Gulf waters off Southwest Florida, the management team of Shell Point Retirement Community was putting its hurricane preparedness plan into action. One week prior to the predicted landfall, employees were told not to park on the second level of the parking garage to allow staff to prepare that level for use during the storm. Two days before the anticipated arrival of the storm, medical supplies, food, water, and equipment were set up in the second floor of the shelter, which is well above anticipated storm-surge levels.
In addition to the more than 1,100 residents who took shelter in the building, Shell Point staff also moved in, many with their families. Well over one hundred staff, three medical doctors, two nurse practitioners, and a team of nursing staff were on hand throughout the entire event. As the storm shook buildings all over the island community, residents in the shelter were being fed meals and cared for. A special room was dedicated to keeping residents’ and employees’ pets safe, as well.
Residents are thankful to have the peace of mind that should a storm ever threaten southwest Florida, the safest place to be is right at home – at Shell Point.
Shell Point Retirement Community is a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community located in Fort Myers just off Summerlin Road, two miles before the Sanibel causeway. Shell Point has received national accreditation from CARF-CCAC, and is a nationally recognized leader in the retirement industry and offers retirement living in a resort-style environment with an 18-hole championship golf course, deep water boating access, and recreational and fitness facilities. To learn more about Shell Point, visit us at www.shellpoint.org or call 1-800-780-1131.