PEA RIDGE (KFSM) — While most area residents are encouraged to bunker in their homes during severe weather, Pea Ridge residents have the option of taking shelter in Benton County’s only public storm shelter.
Pea Ridge’s emergency shelter is located behind the Pea Ridge high school and can hold up to 800 people. It has its own generator to provide electricity during storms.
The shelter can withstand 250 mph wind gusts, and the walls will hold up even when pelted with heavy debris.
The facility’s doors are automatically unlocked when the county sounds the tornado siren.
“Central communication will send out a tone, which unlocks this building,” said Jamie Baggot, Pea Ridge fire chief. “It also sets off the tornado sirens. Once that is unlocked, the doors will open, and, they will stay open until the end of the event.”
“We have actually had people as far away as Fayetteville come here,” said Baggot. “We try and get people to come in locally, obviously. We are not going to turn them away if they do show up. We do have a capacity, but we will pack in as many people as possible.”
As a public shelter, people are only allowed to bring minimal personal property items. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, weapons and pets are all prohibited.
The facility was built using money from a 2008 FEMA grant.