WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina have prompted the state of Mississippi to build a new medical needs storm shelter.
Located in Wiggins, the shelter is a place where people with acute health problems can evacuate during a storm; the first of its kind in the nation.
"It's so great to be at a positive event. It's so nice to be at something that's positive. So, welcome to all of you," said state health officer Dr. Mary Currier.
The nearly $8 million facility is more than 23,000 square-feet, and can accommodate more than 150 patients.
"Patients that will come in on...ambulance type buses will come in through those doors and be brought into here," said Wayne Vaughn.
In an emergency, Coastal residents with medical support needs won't have to go far when they evacuate.
"And the fact that over 23 percent of Mississippians suffer from some type of disability, it's a really heartwarming thing to see that we put this much time and effort into making sure our people with disabilities will be taken care of," said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Lee Smithson.
Although it's designed to withstand hurricane force winds, the facility can be used for any number of disasters; including terrorism and disease outbreaks.
"This self-sustaining building will serve Mississippians well during public health emergencies and natural disasters, from providing medical support, providing shelter, even telehealth capabilities with our partners at the University of Mississippi Medical Center," said Jim Craig, Mississippi Department of Health.
Federal grant money paid for the nearly eight million dollar facility, which has its own generators and water supply, in a partnership between FEMA and MEMA.
Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.