Severe Weather Awareness-Why You Need an In House Safe Room or Outside Storm Shelter

Why You Need a Storm Shelter

In the United States there are approximately 1,200 tornadoes each year. Safe-T-Shelter has compiled the following notes on storm shelters and safe rooms for those of you thinking about safety in the wake of recent storms.

The US has the most tornadoes of any country in the world. Though we experience more than 1,200 each year, a busy year could see more than 1,500 tornadoes. The United States also has the strongest and most violent tornadoes of any country in the world because of our natural geography and size.

Assessing Your Risk / Tornado Preparedness
Building codes provide design data that offers guidance for weather, seismic, and other events. This weather data provides information like precipitation / snow loads and wind loads. No design guidelines for wind loads come close to the force exerted by severe weather events like tornadoes.  So, the major takeaway is easy.  Your home is not designed to withstand even a moderate tornado, to ensure your safety if a tornado strikes, you need a saferoom or storm shelter.

Basic wind speed information from the 2012 International Residential Code shows a wind speed of 90 mph for most of the US. Coastal areas receive higher wind speed ratings, up to 140 mph, because of hurricanes. Even moderate tornadoes like an F1 measured on the Enhanced Fujita Scale can exceed the wind load used to design our houses across the majority of the country.

NOAA’s National Climactic Data Center publishes information on extreme weather events, including tornadoes. Some of the statistics are shocking. For example, few would have guessed that Florida experienced more tornadoes, by a wide margin, on average than any other southeastern state from 1991 to 2010?

You can also use records from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center to assess the risk for your specific location. The data from the SPC is also startling – there were 758 tornadoes in the United States just during April 2011. In addition to information on tornadoes, you can find a multitude of weather and seismic events recorded on government websites to help you assess your risk.

Safe Room & Storm Shelter Standards

The Federal Emergency Management Agency publishes a series of construction standards for buildings in areas known for weather-related hazards like hurricanes and tornadoes. FEMA has published a saferoom standard for these extreme weather events. FEMA describes storm shelters and safe rooms as, “a hardened structure specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria and provide ‘near-absolute protection’ in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes.”

Saferooms are typically above-ground rooms in your home. This is in contrast to a storm shelter that is often in a garage or even on a separate concrete pad elsewhere on your property. You can find FEMA’s guidance for saferooms in its P-320 “Taking Shelter from the Storm” document. Safe rooms and most storm shelters are designed for a small number of occupants that you’d expect in a home or small business. But at Safe-T-Shelter, we also produce shelters custom to any size requirement.  We can create a shelter to protect 1 or to protect 500+.  The ICC 500 standard from the International Code Council provides guidance for larger shelters that you’d expect for schools, municipalities, and commercial buildings.

Installing a safe room in an existing home can be a significant challenge because of the potential amount of demolition and structural work required, but many homes have locations under stairs, or walk in closets that can be retrofitted to perfectly contain a storm shelter, or allow for panels to be installed converting the existing structure into a perfectly safe solution. The room needs to be adequately connected to the structure and foundation of the house to resist the wind and other loads delivered in a weather event like a tornado or hurricane. Safe rooms are still best suited to be installed in the construction of a home, but don't let that deter you.  There are affordable solutions for everyone, that will allow for your family to be properly prepared for when the next storm strikes. 

If you’d like to add a shelter to your existing home, you can consider a prefabricated storm shelter or some modular designs like we discussed in the paragraph above.

While in previous years, the recommendation for storm shelters was for them to be installed underground, that is not longer the case.  New design standards and enhanced technologies have shifted thinking, and now aboveground storm shelters are the preferred solutions for a variety of reasons.  They have been tested to withstand winds and projectiles associated with EF5 winds, and do not pose the risks of entrapment and flooding that underground storm shelters do.  Additionally, above ground storm shelters are typically cheaper to install and build, meaning it will cost less to protect your family than ever before.

Municipalities across the country have also now created a storm shelter or safe room registry so they know to check each storm shelter to be sure people aren’t trapped inside. But having an above ground storm shelter means the likelihood of being trapped is much smaller, but you should still register your storm shelter with as many registry databases as possible. If your municipality doesn’t have a storm shelter registry, you should give more thought to where you locate your storm shelter access to reduce the potential of any obstruction limiting your ability to exit the stormshelter.

While some homes do have underground stormshelters, in garage storm shelters or basement storm shelters, if that is the route you choose to take, we highly recommend having the doors open exterior to the house.  If your home is destroyed, the last thing you want to have happen is have the house collapse on top of your exit from your storm shelter.  And even worse, if the water line breaks, and water enters your shelter, while you are unable to exit.  This is an unfortunate, and all too common reality when a large tornado strikes.

Another thing to consider before installing an underground storm shelter or underground safe room, is that access can be an issue when you need to use it.  The elderly, and those in a wheelchair might not be able to enter your shelter, defeating the purpose.  We recommend shelters that are wheelchair accessible, that have doors that are easy to open no matter a person's particular strength.   

Consider Your Pets
Don't forget to size your storm shelter to include your pets. It’s amazing to see how many people lose track of their pets when they’re separated during severe weather events. It’s also critical to have your pets microchipped so they can be identified and returned to you if you do become separated in a storm.

Tornado Shelters and Storm Shelters

Don't Wait, Pay Attention, and Utilize Your Storm Shelter Before it is Too Late.

Too many people rely on outdoor warning sirens to alert them though these are typically designed only to alert people who are outside – away from their weather radios. So please invest the $10 in a battery powered weather radio (be sure to change the batteries regularly, like a smoke alarm, each time the time changes).  There are also many apps that can be downloaded to your phone to provide additional coverage and alert you of weather events around your exact location.  But a warning is only beneficial if you act.  What’s the point of having a storm shelter if you don’t utilize it when you receive a warning?  Don't wait until the storm is moments away.  Camp out in your storm shelter or safe room, if necessary, until the threat has completely passed.  

You can also find active alerts on the National Weather Service website. This resource lets you check alerts by state so you can see weather event concerns even when you’re traveling.

Insurance Breaks?

It may be possible to get credit toward your premiums for code-plus construction that helps your home resist weather events, start by calling your agent.  

We also recommend that you inquire about flood insurance, even if you think you don’t need it. Weather events often include rain that can create flash flood events that aren’t covered under many home owner’s insurance policies, so ask about an addendum to your coverage. The fee increase would be nominal, but would protect you if something catastrophic happened.  We would hate for you to be in a situation where your home owner’s policy provider argues that damage was caused by water intrusion and is thus excluded from your standard coverage.

The Bottom Line, Why You Need a Storm Shelter

Many severe storms materialize with little, if any notice. There’s no time to pack up and escape, which means you need a better option than trying to ride out a tornado in your bathtub. Very few buildings are “storm proof,” but for a small investment, you can both protect your family and increase the value of your home. We can design and construct buildings that will protect you no matter how large the storm is, or how large your family is.

To protect your family from weather events, please consider starting with a narrow focus: a first aid kit, a weather radio and a storm shelter. 

If you need some help deciding the proper size or placement of a storm shelter / safe room, we are happy to consult with you for free to determine the best option for you and your family. 

Custom Tornado Shelters for any Amount of People

Excellent Communication. Great attention to detail, very attentive to our questions, and the delivery and install were faster than even expected!  We highly recommend Safe-T-Shelter.

Mr. Zeiler
Satisfied Customer
Residential Storm Shelters or Safe Rooms

After a Storm, Tornado Shelters for Sale, see Increased Interest

Tornado Shelters for Sale

Inquiries about tornado shelters for sale by Safe-T-Shelter storm shelters picked up immediately after deadly tornados hit Alabama in 2011 killing more than 235 statewide and injuring countless others.

Brent Mitchell would much rather reverse this business model.

“We sell a lot of shelters after a tornado goes through,” said Mitchell, chief operating officer of the Hartselle-based Aquamarine Enterprises, the maker of Safe-T-Shelter storm shelters.

“We’d much rather see people taking reasonable steps to be safe before the disaster.”

Mitchell and his wife Melanie are part of the family-owned and woman-owned business that has been keeping communities, families, businesses, and school children and administrators safe for more than 20 years across Tornado Alley.

Mitchell said people are encouraged to take shelter from high winds in a basement or an interior room without windows.

“Obviously, when you’re dealing with really big storms, like we see all over the Southeast, Midwest, and Southwest during tornado season, those precautions aren’t enough,”Mitchell said. “We saw a lot of houses across the state where there was nothing left but the foundation.”

“That’s when safe rooms provide extra protection from these unpredictable storms.”

Tornado Shelter Industry Leaders

Mitchell, his family, and their staff have dedicated a large portion of their lives to keep people safe.  They use rigorous standards, have each of their shelters tested and certified, use only the best materials, and ensure proper installation so that the recipients of the tornado shelter can have full confidence in their purchase.

Brent said his above ground storm shelters have been tested by Texas Tech Wind Institute to withstand EF5 tornadoes — the strongest category on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The Safe-T-Shelter tornado shelters also exceed the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s projectile standard, which requires storm shelters to withstand debris hurled at 100 mph, Mitchell said.

Safe-T-Shelter has a showroom in Hartselle, AL where interested parties can see the quality of construction and determine the proper size to meet their needs.

Interest in storm shelters and reinforced safe rooms is on the rise, and with financing available at great rates, it is easier than ever to ensure the safety of your family when a tornado strikes, which often happens with little warning.

“Every year, there are so many severe storm systems, so much destruction in the news. It’s generated a large interest in tornado shelters for sale,” said Mitchell. “There has been a sharp increase in demand.”

Quality storm shelters come in all varieties: indoor and outdoor, above ground storm shelters or below, a designated safe room or a reinforced interior room that doubles as everyday living space, he said.

“We’ve been in the business of keeping people safe for a long time,” he said.

Above Ground Storm Shelters have Outpaced Underground Shelters in terms of Safety

Mitchell said underground storm shelters aren’t ideal for many reasons.

“Here comes the storm. The wind is blowing at massive speeds. Now it’s hailing. Many aren’t going to take their wife and baby out in the storm to get to the shelter.”

A Safe-T-Shelter storm shelter is typically installed closer to the home, often under an existing roof on an existing concrete pad/foundation.  They can be installed inside of a home, under stairs if the space exists, or can be placed away from a home on a concrete foundation poured to very detailed specifications to ensure proper safety.  The flexibility of the installation, the lower costs, and ease of financing has continued to make the acquisition easier for those interested in tornado shelters.

Because they build all the products that they sell, they are able to keep prices low, and are able to create storm shelters that can protect a single person or 500+.  Their experience protecting entire rural communities, schools, manufacturing facilities and businesses across the country gives them a unique perspective and ensures that they stay on top of new technologies and ‘creature comforts’ that make time spent in their storm shelters more comfortable. Prices begin around $5,000 based on the number of people that have to be protected and certain issues that affect the installation process..

Units come with forced-air ventilation, lighting, and an uninterruptible power source is also available.  Padded seats, bunks, storage boxes, and more are available to customize your shelter for your specific needs or desires.

“Especially for someone with disabilities in the household that can’t make it to the basement or an outside unit, our above ground storm shelters are ideal in that scenario.”

Mitchell said there is no way to know how many homes have storm shelters, but he knows not enough do.

He said, “All you have to do is follow news coverage after the latest tornado touches down to realize there aren’t enough.”

Storm Shelters and Safe Rooms have never been More Affordable

If there was a single takeaway for people reading this interview, Brent said:

“Don’t wait for tragedy to see the need!”



dont-wait-5

He elaborated, “They’re too rare right now — whether ours or some other company’s,” he said. “Not enough people are preparing for their safety, but interest is rising.”

Emergency supply kit

Some storms produce power outages that last for several days. Having the following items will help you cope:

Bottled water

Non-perishable food

Flashlights & extra batteries

Extra clothing & blankets

An extra set of keys & cash

Medications & first aid kit

Personal hygiene items

Pet supplies

A weather alert radio or portable AM/FM radio

Safety Shelters are the New ‘Updated Kitchen’ in Real Estate

Tornado Shelters for Sale by Safe-T-Shelter are a sound investment, not only for the safety of your family, but they have been proven to increase the value of your home.

Above Ground Steel Storm Shelter Manufacturer

Is an Above Ground Storm Shelter the Best Choice During a Tornado?

Recent Technological Advances have made Above Ground Shelters the Right Choice for Most People in Need of Storm Protection

In the all too common scenario that a tornado warning is issued for your area, what do the experts feel are the best choices for avoiding injury or loss of life?

Options range from seeking shelter in basements to an above ground storm shelter to below-ground storm shelters. There are pros and cons to all of these options, but one option does provide the best option to protect your family.

Most experts now agree that your odds for surviving a direct hit with a strong tornado (EF-4 or EF-5) are greatest in a tested above ground storm shelter built to FEMA specifications.

Above ground storm shelters tested by the Texas Tech wind institute and built to FEMA specifications can be rated to survive an EF-5 storm, they pose less risk of entrapment when compared to underground storm shelters, do not pose a risk of flooding from the common breaking of water lines during a tornado, that an in-ground storm shelter does, and also is much more easily accessible to the elderly or those with handicaps making maneuvering stairs difficult or impossible.  Additionally, above ground storm shelters have fewer installation limitations.  Nearly any piece of property can be made eligible for installation of an above ground tornado shelter.  All these reasons make it easy to understand why most experts prefer and recommend an above ground storm shelter to families looking to provide protection from an unpredictable storm.

If an above-ground safe room is not available but a basement is present, you should head downstairs and get under sturdy furniture or a stairwell.

In violent tornadoes, sometimes the floor collapses or is swept away and debris can then be thrown into the basement.  So they are not the best option, but if a storm is heading your way, they can still be the best option available.

For existing homes that do not have a basement, retrofitting a small, interior room or adding an above ground safe room within a large room or even under an existing stairway, is a cost effective alternative.  Alternatively, an above ground storm shelter can be installed outdoors on an existing concrete pad/foundation, or a new foundation can be poured to safely secure an outdoor tornado shelter.

What if you don’t have an Above Ground Safe Room?

Storm Tested Shelter in an EF5 Tornado

Storm Tested Shelter in an EF5 Tornado- Our Tornado Shelters have saved countless lives.

But what should you do if you do not have access to a tornado shelter on your property?  Studies have shown that when much of a home has been destroyed, often the only surviving part of the dwelling is a small interior room, such as a closet or bathroom. This has to do with more supportive wall framing versus ceiling surface area.

In strong tornadoes, often the entire roof and/or upper floors are removed from the dwelling, which exposes the remaining walls to more stress and risk of failure.

Even if the interior walls remain standing, they could be penetrated by high-velocity projectiles.

An approved above ground safe room has reinforced walls, ceiling and door.

Whether you seek refuge in a safe room or closet, there are additional precautions you can take.

According to a story published by The Birmingham News, a bike helmet, an infant car seat, sturdy shoes or boots and a heavy quilt or coat can offer extra protection from shards of glass, splinters and other airborne objects.

For those living in mobile homes, you should seek safe shelter elsewhere.  A mobile home offers little protection from a tornado.  But again, a storm shelter can be installed outside of a mobile home to provide protection when the next storm strike.  We currently offer financing plans through our partners for little interest, making it accessible to families with varying budgets.

No matter where you live, a storm shelter could one day save your family!

Despite a low risk in parts of the nation, tornadoes have occurred in all 50 states.  And in recent years, areas that have been typically low risk have seen large increases in tornadoes.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average lead time for tornado warnings is only 13 minutes.  So when you are under a tornado warning, you should implement your tornado plan immediately.  There is no time to wait, and you should always have a practiced plan in place.

There are some people who do not have a means of transportation, are handicapped or simply have no place to go.  And those people should follow our recommendations above and react with the best options available to them.

Escaping a tornado in a vehicle is not recommended unless the absence of traffic and the availability of road options allow you to move quickly at right angles relative to the tornado’s path.

The meteorological community including the National Weather Service provide heads-up alerts sometimes days in advance of potential severe weather and tornado outbreaks.

However, planning ahead should not wait until the day of an expected outbreak or during the heart of the severe weather season. Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, and any time of the day.

In the case of mobile homes, or other storm-vulnerable housing, planning ahead as far as possible is necessary in terms of constructing, locating and traveling to a safe area.

It should be the topic of community, family and workplace discussion. There may already be approved safe areas and information available within your township, school or job site.  If you are responsible for your school or workplace safety, we also offer commercial storm shelters and community storm shelters, with many of these already scattered across the country in high risk areas.

You can survive a tornado!

People should assume the worst will happen when a tornado warning is issued.

Take responsibility for your safety. Trust the warnings. You might spend some time in a storm shelter unnecessarily on occasion, but the tornado warnings have become good enough that they need to be taken seriously.”

If schools and workplaces have no plan (for tornadoes), people should demand that a plan be developed.  And we are here to help you approach your school or workplace decision makers, and can provide you with a plethora of literature describing the many options and also provide information about the availability of grants and rental arrangements to offset costs.

If you are building a new home, consider the addition of an approved above ground safe room or nearby outdoor, above ground storm shelter with adequate means of ventilation.

If you live in a mobile home park, consider approaching the owner as a group about building an above ground storm shelter.  Again, we are glad to help facilitate that interaction by calling on your behalf, or providing materials to help ease the discussion.

In light of the trend of fatalities over the years during tornado outbreaks, there have been vast improvements in public awareness thanks to advanced warnings in the public and private sector.

However, since the number of fatalities from tornadoes is still far from zero, much more improvement is needed on behalf of the public’s education, practice and preventative measures.

Safe-T-Shelter, StormShelter.com, and Aqua Marine Enterprises (the manufacturer of Safe-T-Shelter storm shelters) want to keep you, your family, your work, and your community safe in an unpredictable storm.

Safe-T-Shelter is here to help, and our more than 21 years of experience protecting families, communities, and businesses across the country means that we are the safe choice to help protect you no matter what your unique situation might be.

 

 

Above Ground Storm Shelters are Safer than Underground Storm Shelters

Above Ground Storm Shelters are the Safest Option

Popular opinion in many parts of the country is that when a tornado is bearing down on a community, the only safe place to take shelter is below ground. Joseph has found that this flies in the face of 15 years of research done at Texas Tech University’s National Wind Institute investigating the safety of above-ground storm shelters. He discusses findings from the Moore, OK, tragedy as well as several additional benefits of above-ground shelters. In addition, he shows video of TTU’s Debris Impact Facility firing 15-pound, 2″ by 4″ wood beams at 100 mph to show what tornadic debris can do to a normal home and how a storm shelter keeps occupants safe.

Following the recent devastating tornadoes we heard from many of you asking how to be certain a safe room will keep your family safe through a large tornado.

Alex Ryan was there when the EF-5 tornado barreled into Birmingham.

“When you see a tornado that is that big you have no choice. It’s either find cover or die,” he said.

John Melton also rode out the storm. He and his family didn’t have a safe room so they took to their cellar.

“We locked the cellar door when we saw it coming and it got louder and the next thing you know you see the latch coming undone and you couldn’t reach for it and it ripped open the door. Glass and debris started slamming on us,” John said.

The Meltons all survived but many people have asked us in the wake of the deadly storms which type of safe room is best.  We have made, and installed both for 21+ years, so we have a unique perspective with evidence to support our stance.

Amidst the debris in the path of the EF-5 tornado that tore through Alabama we found safe rooms that survived; both above and below ground.

But we wanted to know whether above or below ground is safest because just as the Alabama tornado began to hit, people were being told the only safe place to be is underground.

FEMA says in the right safe room your family will have near absolute protection even in storms whipping up to 250 miles per hour.

Nathan Evans and his family took to their safe room as the deadly Huntsville tornado descended on them.

“Usually the ones that come around here they kind of come close but never had a direct hit,” said Nathan.

This time it was a direct hit.

The storm sucked the door open on the family’s underground safe room.

“It was scary in respect that I thought I might lose someone in my family.”

It’s a worst case scenario: 250 mph wind with flying debris.

Could above ground safe rooms /  above ground storm shelters hold as well? 

To find out we traveled to the Texas Tech Wind Research Center. At the facility in Lubbock, Texas scientists use a wind cannon to launch wood and metal to simulate wind and damaging storm debris. It can produce EF-5 level tornado damage.

The cannon simulates wind of 250 mph. The researchers line up a safe room to take the hits with objects including 2×4’s fired at the shelter’s most vulnerable spots such as away from studs and into the door.  A storm shelter would be considered a failure if the steel is pushed inward more than three inches.

The cannon fires a series of EF-5 level shots. The safe room performs perfectly.

Barely any evidence of impact exists on the tornado shelter, no holes and the door remains sealed. The shelter would also remain attached to the ground during a tornado. Huge, specially-made bolts driven into at least 4 inches of concrete prevent this shelter from being picked up or pushed over.

A lot of individuals can’t go underground (and we further discuss what to do if an underground shelter is not an option here). Some have underground shelters, but they aren’t able to get into those shelters when the storm hits, or as a result of an array of factors, an underground storm shelter is not possible where they live.  Above ground storm shelters are easier and less expensive to install, which makes them more accessible to consumers.

So now, back to our question — which is superior?  Above or below ground storm shelters?

Larry Tanner, research associate at the Wind Research Center, says most importantly your safe room must be designed and built to FEMA guidelines.

“They’re all safe if they are tested products,” said Tanner.  And all our tornado shelters are tested.

However, in a below ground safe room you face the risk of debris blocking the exit, or flooding (when a tornado demolishes a home, it typically exposes a water line that can and often does lead to flooding in underground storm shelters).

The good news: No one has ever been killed in an approved above ground storm shelter.

And after seeing video footage of cars picked up and tossed by tornadoes many people ask whether above ground safe rooms will stand up to cars falling out of the sky?

Tanner says safe rooms built to FEMA guidelines handle a 3,000 pound vehicle being dropped on them no problem.

“The 57 Cadillac draping over the sides of the shelter. That’s virtually what we see all the time,” Tanner said.

The bottom line, based on a plethora of evidence, is that above ground storm shelters are the best option to protect you and your loved ones.
Above Ground Storm Shelters

A Residential Storm Shelter Offers Unmatched Storm Protection, and Peace of Mind.

Safe Rooms are the New ‘Must Have’ in New Construction

Residential Storm Shelters or Safe Rooms

Dual-Use Safe Rooms

A room where you can store jewelry, guns, send your email–and survive 250 mph tornado winds? It’s called a storm shelter or “safe room” and is a surprisingly popular home renovation, even during downturns in the real estate market.  But especially now with home sales spiking across the country.  The biggest market increase has been see with more people adding storm shelters and safe rooms to the design process for their newly constructed homes.

These aren’t the dank bunkers your father hid in. Many of the new shelters are above-ground storm shelters prefabricated and installed on concrete pads inside a garage or as a stand alone in your yard, or even installed inside the home. They are prefabricated storm shelters or custom safe rooms based on your needs and often lead double lives as offices, tool sheds, or even as wine cellars in less turbulent times.

Storm Shelters for New Construction

Many home builders include safe rooms /storm shelters in new custom homes, calling it a “must-have item.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which publishes safe room construction guidelines, says that information is now the agency’s “most requested” publication. And the National Storm Shelter Association estimates U.S. storm shelters number in the low millions, most of them having been added in the last decade.  And for many rural communities, it is becoming common for municipalities to install large community storm shelters for its citizens.

The aging 76 million Baby Boomers are a driving force behind much of the boom (pardon the pun) in storm shelter sales . Above-ground storm shelter designs are particularly popular among families with elderly members who might not be able to navigate stairs or make it across the yard into a bunker quickly. And recent studies have shown that above-ground shelters are just as safe, and in many cases safer than their underground storm shelter counterparts (Article discussing the safety of above ground storm shelters).  Sizes typically range from around 50 square feet to upward of 200 square feet on larger models and some can be equipped with electricity, restrooms, and other creature comforts based on need or desire.

Tornado Alley is not the Only Area Showing Increases in Storm Shelter Purchases

While storm-prone states are key target markets, many people in states not known for tornado outbreaks are purchasing the shelters for peace of mind.  And recent NOAA data has shown that nearly all states have had devastating tornadoes in recent years.

Intrigued? Check out our gallery of photos, or contact us for more information.

Why You Need a Storm Shelter and What to do if You Do Not Have One!

Storm Shelters, Safe Rooms, and Tornado Shelters

A reinforced safe room (or above-ground tornado shelter) is as good as an underground shelter. Residential Safe rooms are specially-designed reinforced tornado shelters built into homes, schools and other buildings. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (or FEMA), in close cooperation with experts in wind engineering and tornado damage, has developed detailed guidelines for constructing a safe room and the storm shelters built by Safe-T-Shelter meet or exceed those specifications.

If No Reinforced Storm Shelter is Available

If you’re like most people, you don’t have a residential tornado shelter. In this case, you need to find a location that is…

  • As close to the ground as possible
  • As far inside the building as possible
  • Away from doors, windows and outside walls
  • In as small of a room as possible

If you don’t have a saferoom, basement, panic room, above ground storm shelter, or underground storm shelter, what should you do? Remembering the basics of tornado safety, you should look around your home to determine the best place.  You should also seek out community storm shelters in you city or municipality before a storm threatens your community.

Alternate Ideas if a Storm is Coming and You Don’t have a Safe Room

  • Bathrooms

    Bathrooms MAY be a good shelter, provided they are not along an outside wall and have no windows. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing magically safe about getting in a bathtub with a mattress. In some cases, this might be a great shelter. However, it depends on where your bathroom is. If your bathroom has windows and is along an outside wall, it’s probably not the best shelter.

    Bathrooms have proven to be adequate tornado shelters in many cases for a couple of reasons. First, bathrooms are typically small rooms with no windows in the middle of a building. Secondly, it is thought that the plumbing within the walls of a bathroom helps to add some structural strength to the room.

    However, with tornadoes there are no absolutes, and you should look closely at your home when determining your shelter area.

  • Closets

    A small interior closet might be a shelter. Again, the closet should be as deep inside the building as possible, with no outside walls, doors or windows. Be sure to close the door and cover up.

  • Hallways

    If a hallway is your shelter area, be sure to shut all doors. Again, the goal is to create as many barriers as possible between you and the flying debris in and near a tornado. To be an effective shelter, a hallway should as be far inside the building as possible and should not have any openings to the outside (windows and doors).

  • Under Stairs

The space underneath a stairwell could be used as a shelter.

If you Live in an Apartment without a Tornado Shelter, Storm Shelter, Safe Room, or Panic Room

The basic tornado safety guidelines apply if you live in an apartment. Get to the lowest floor, with as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

Apartment dwellers should have a plan, particularly if you live on the upper floors. If your complex does not have a reinforced storm shelter, you should make arrangements to get to an apartment on the lowest floor possible.

In some cases, the apartment clubhouse or laundry room may be used as a shelter, provided the basic safety guidelines are followed. You need to have a shelter area that’s accessible at all times of the day or night.

No Basement, No Problem…with an Above Ground Storm Shelter!

Basements scarce in Moore, Oklahoma – CNN.com

 

No Basement, No Problem…with an Above Ground Storm Shelter!

It’s one of the most familiar pieces of advice from authorities to people in the path of a tornado: Get into your basement. Yet few homes in the Oklahoma City area have them — even though that state is hit by far more powerful tornadoes than most others.

“Probably less than one tenth of one percent” of the houses in Moore are built with basements, said Mike Hancock, president of Basement Contractors in Edmond, Oklahoma. “There’s just such a misconception that you cannot do it.”

Why?

Hancock cited the area’s high groundwater levels and heavy clay as among the reasons some people believe — wrongly, he said — that basements are tough to construct.

But improved waterproofing methods can obviate the first; and the second, too, is surmountable, according to Hancock, who said he has built more than 600 basements in the Oklahoma City area over the past 15 years.

 Tornado shelters save lives! 

“We do ’em all day long,” he said. “I’ve got 32 basements to put in the ground right now.”

The city of Moore was the epicenter of an EF5 tornado Monday that decimated neighborhoods in the Oklahoma City area, leaving at least 24 dead.

Inside a tornado-ravaged school

In Moore, other issues can dissuade new home buyers from investing in basements, Hancock said. One is that there are so few other such houses that comparable values are tough to estimate, “so appraisers don’t give you any credit.”

In fact, basements are so rare in the area that real estate listings do not include “basement” as an option under foundation types, he said.

“You can list it in the comments section, but that’s not a foundation type.” That means it’s hard for house hunters to narrow their searches to houses with basements, which makes it harder still for sellers who have built houses with basements to recoup their investments, he said.

Moore in bull’s-eye twice, science may know why

Mike Barnett, a custom homebuilder in the area for 37 years, estimated that some 2% of residents have basements, and 10% to 15% “have some kind of cellar.”

None of the homes in his partially completed, 51-house development, called Autumn Oaks, has a basement, he said. Though it was spared Monday’s storms, “a block north of us it looks like Bosnia,” he said. He plans to build a community shelter that would accommodate all of its residents.

Alternatives exist: An above-ground shelter runs $8,000 to $10,000; a small basement would cost $15,000 to $20,000; and a concrete cellar built during new-house construction would cost as little as $2,200, said Barnett.

Tornado prediction is improving, scientists say

Accessibility an important element

Basements provide good protection if equipped with a suitable door and a concrete roof, but basements of pier-beam houses would leave their occupants exposed and vulnerable if the structure above them were blown away, said Ernst Kiesling, a former professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech.

Kiesling created the concept of the above-ground storm shelter after a tornado swept through Lubbock, Texas, in 1970, killing 26 people and demolishing scores of homes.

EF5 tornadoes are terrifying perfect storms

In addition, it is difficult to make basements compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Kiesling, who is on the research faculty at the school’s National Wind Institute.

Above-ground storm shelters are easy to make accessible to those who are physically challenged, “and I would say that accessibility is a very important element,” Kiesling said.

Specially reinforced safe rooms provide “near absolute occupant protection from even the worst-case tornado,” he said.

How can we be safe from tornadoes?

Other products include steel, concrete and plastic shelters; above-ground and below-ground shelters; indoor and outdoor shelters; and shelters that fit underneath the garage slab.

The extra cost of incorporating a basement into plans for a house depends on where it is being built. “If you’re in the colder climates, then one has to put the foundation walls several feet deep to get below the frost line,” Kiesling said.

A region’s frost line marks where the ground no longer freezes and is an important variable when installing pipes. The added cost of digging down the extra couple of feet needed to make a basement for a house in the Northeast is relatively small, he said. “If you’re that deep, you’re pretty well along forming the shell for the basement.”

But in the Southwest, where the frost line is only about 18 inches below ground, the added incremental cost of digging out a basement would be far steeper, said the Texan.

“Here, houses are typically built by placing a slab on the surface and building above it.”

The making of a nightmare tornado (You Need a Storm Shelter!)

Lessons to be learned

Kiesling is also executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association, a nonprofit group that focuses on improving the quality of storm shelters.

He was planning Tuesday to organize teams to travel to Moore to study which structures failed and which performed well. “There’s a lot of lessons we can learn from this,” he said.

Kiesling said he had heard news reports citing underground shelters as the only safe places Monday in Moore. “That causes my blood to curdle, because I’ve spent my career developing safe places above ground,” he said.

Monday’s disaster is expected to lead to renewed calls to ensure that new houses are equipped with some sort of protection, said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.

But don’t count on them to effect change.

“What happens is that time and fading memories are the worst enemies,” she said. “People think it can’t happen twice, but in the case of Moore, Oklahoma, the tragedy here is this is the third strike — 1999 to 2003.”

After each of those strikes, homebuilders pledged never again to build homes without including safe rooms, she said. Though many followed through on their vows, more work remains, she noted.

Above Ground Storm Shelters as Effective as Below Ground Shelters

NewsOn6.com – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – KOTV.com |

MOORE, Oklahoma –

The massive storm that hit central Oklahoma last week has shined a light on safe rooms and storm shelters.

More than 3,000 shelters are registered in the city of Moore, and the city says everyone who took shelter inside one of them survived the storm.

The violent path of the tornado can be seen everywhere in the Moore neighborhood. Mindy Chaddock and family made it through the over 200-mile-an-hour winds by huddling in a storm shelter.

“People describe it as a train feeling–it wasn’t anything like that. I mean, the whole thing was shaking,” Chaddock said.

The one that saved her family is a below ground shelter; the most common kind of shelter in the neighborhood.

“This storm–I don’t see how you can survive in a bathtub or a closet, because, even in a shelter, we were scared for our life. That’s how strong it was,” Chaddock said.

“We’re looking, right now, for anything that was used to survive the tornado,” said Tom Bennett.

Bennett is a News On 6 weather producer, as well as president of Jim Giles Safe Rooms and past president of the National Storm Shelter Association or NSSA.

Members of that organization have been surveying in Moore, looking at the safe rooms and storm shelters to see how they performed during the tornado.

Complete Coverage: May 2013 Tornado Outbreak

Bennett said they haven’t seen a case, yet, of either an above ground or below ground shelter failing in the storm.

Bennett said while there is some minor damage to some of the above ground shelters, like the turbines flying off or the handles being bent, there’s nothing that would lead to tragedy.

“We’re not seeing anything here that caused injury or death. If you were in a safe room, whether it was above ground or below ground, you survived the tornado,” Bennett said.

Chaddock said she’s thankful to the Chickasaw tribe for installing the shelter for her grandmother and hopes everyone knows how important shelters are, no matter the cost.

“It’s 100 percent worth it. I mean, if you value your life and you value your children’s life, it’s 100 percent worth it,” she said.

Wind engineers from Texas Tech University are also in Moore. They’re reporting to FEMA about what the wind did to all of the structures–the buildings, the schools, even the storm shelters.