Inside the dome in case of an emergency

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by Andrew Horansky / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 19, 2013 at 12:05 AM

Updated Sunday, Jan 20 at 1:47 PM

HOUSTON -- Giant domes are popping up by the hundreds around Houston and around the world. But what are they being used for?

You may have seen one from I-10 in Sealy -- back from the road and beyond the fence. It’s a mysterious dome that sprang from the ground not long after Hurricane Ike.

“It's a thin-shelled, concrete, steel-reinforced structure,” said Peter Fedele, CEO of ABC Domes.

Fedele’s company built it.

“They're designed to weather the storm and to be independent of the grid. So it really is a full-safe shelter,” said Fedele.

He recently gave KHOU 11 News a rare look inside where cameras are typically not allowed.

There's a mobile command unit, a storage room with emergency supplies and a cafeteria.

“This is my apartment when I’m in Texas,” said Fedele.

Fedele's private quarters are on the top floor.

This is just one of 500 domes he’s worked on worldwide. Fedele said each one has a purpose, such as shelter or storage, and each can withstand hurricane-force winds of 250 mph.

More domes could be coming to Texas soon.

Late last year, FEMA set aside $50 million for the building of emergency shelters along the Texas coast. Communities set the specifics, chose the contractor, and chipped in 25 percent of the costs. FEMA picked up the rest.

“It opens up federal funding and local funding for future disaster mitigating facilities,” said Fedele.

Building will take place over the next two years. Communities are currently reviewing bids.

“There's one going on in Lumberton right now,” said Fedele. “There's one in Bloomington. Up and down the coast line, you know, in every community in the coast line.”

ABC could win nearly two dozen contracts -- worth tens of millions of dollars -- should communities pick them.

Fedele believes the key is designing with a non-disaster purpose in mind--such as a gym with retractable seats.

“This is very, very typical of the secondary use for our domes,” said Fedele.”

He says a structure just like this one can go up in just three months. All he needs now is a green light to build.

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