The Tupelo, Mississippi, city council approved two Monolithic Dome safe rooms — one for Lee Acres and the other for Theron Nichols Park. Each will be large enough to hold over 1,000 residents during a major storm. FEMA grants will pay 90 percent of the cost.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not endorse a building style. Instead, they created a specification (FEMA P-361) for buildings to meet standards for near-absolute protection from disaster.

“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.” — FEMA Safe Rooms website.

Although the various announcements about the Tupelo safe rooms discuss the Monolithic Dome and FEMA, they don’t mention what the domes will be used for in-between disasters.

It’s a critical omission.

These 6,000+ square foot buildings will not sit idle. The city will likely use them as community centers or other public spaces.

Building a FEMA-compliant safe room using traditional methods is possible — and various contractors do build them. They are usually dedicated spaces for emergency use only. The Monolithic Dome, on the other hand, is an affordable, general-purpose building that with a few tweaks — like stronger doors and careful design — becomes FEMA-complaint virtually for free.

The city essentially gets two buildings for the price of one. Plus, they cut energy costs in half.

That’s a great deal.