Retired school teacher and horse lover, Mary Ellen Hickman of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma finally did what many horse lovers would love to do to keep their horses safe. Hickman built a safe room to protect her horses from dangerous weather and tornadoes.
“After the devastating storm last year in Moore, Oklahoma that was about a mile from my farm, I decided to look into building a safe room for my horses,” says Hickman, who owns Quarter Horse race and barrel horses. “People are surprised that it isn’t as expensive as they thought it would be. Many people build swimming pools and it cost about the same amount to build a safe room for my animals. I don’t have a swimming pool, but I now have a safe room that is supposed to protect up to a F-5 tornado.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website, “a safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to meet the (FEMA) criteria and provide ‘near-absolute protection’ in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.”
Hickman designed a safe room for ten horses where they would be housed side-by-side like they were in a trailer. The size of her room is 12×35 with additional emergency lighting and fans installed. The cement walls are around eight inches thick. Mary Ellen says that a 12×12 basic unit for two horses, people and other animals would cost around $14,000, which would break down to be around $300 per lineal foot.
“Of course, I would probably still give the horses a sedative in the safe room just to make sure they remain calm, but I honestly hope I never have to use it,” Hickman states. “The peace of mind of knowing that I have done everything to protect my animals was well worth the cost. I also see building a safe room as an investment if I ever sell my place.”
Hickman’s builder, Terry Scrivner of Mustang, Oklahoma thought Mary’s idea of building a safe room for her horses was groundbreaking. It was the first one he had ever done for horses. Hickman says that Scrivner is already getting more calls about building more safe rooms, specifically for horses.
“We are so glad that we have inspired others to build a Safe Room for their animals. The response has been a little overwhelming. People have contacted me from all over the world. I had one gentleman from Australia tell me that he may consider building one due to the brush fires that happen often near his farm,” Hickman says. “I mean what is your safety really worth? As we are in the midst of tornado season, we are praying that everyone will stay safe and in this case, we hope more horses and animals will be safer too.”
If you go to www.fema.gov/safe-rooms you can see the specs that Hickman followed for an F5 tornado. GoHorseShow would like to thank Mary for taking the time to share her thoughts about building her safe room.
Photos © Mary Ellen Hickman