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Phil Campbell boasts shelter in time of storm

By Nicole Burns

For the FCT

The town of Phil Campbell is understandably jumpy when it comes to a forecasted severe weather threat. Last week’s round of weather was no exception. There have been changes to designated storm shelters over the last several years in Phil Campbell as shelters were added, moved, shifted, closed and reopened. Some might be confused as to where they can go to seek safety during the storm.

First Baptist Church Pastor Tim Haney said the church recently had to close the its basement to the public during severe weather because of insurance policy issues, but after some digging, Haney was able to take the “Closed” signs down. “We thought our insurance policy would refuse to pay for anyone’s injuries if the building were to collapse,” said Haney. “But I contacted the main office in Birmingham, and they assured me that anything we do with the public – worship events, Bible studies, operate as a storm shelter – is covered under our policy.”

Mayor Steve Bell said there is ample space in the city’s two storm shelters, which are located outside the town’s community center next to the Splash Pad and at the baseball fields on Highway 63. The public housing communities of Underwood, Stallcup and Nix Road have their own storm shelters located on each campus, but those shelters are only open to residents.

Haney said reopening the church basement to the public was a priority to him because so many people found safety there April 27, 2011. “We opened it back up because we want to save the lives of those who live around us,” said Haney. “In the last storm, our basement saved the lives of many and even served as the first triage on our end of town. Plus, I was able to pray with and minister the gospel to so many people that day.”

While there might be ample room for neighbors at public and private shelters around Phil Campbell, people will have to leave their pets at home. Bell said no food or pets are allowed at any of the city’s shelters, and that’s the rule Haney and the First Baptist leaders have set for the church basement, as well.