Commercial Storm Shelters

Tornado Preparedness Tips for School Systems and School Administrators Without School Storm Shelters

Tornado Preparedness Tips for School Systems and School Administrators Without School Storm Shelters

PREPARE A TORNADO SAFETY PLAN FOR YOUR SCHOOL…

The most important part of tornado safety in schools, and in similar logistical arrangements such as nursing homes, is to develop a good tornado safety plan tailored to your building design and ability to move people, if you don’t have a community storm shelter or commercial storm shelter at your school. Sample School SchematicI have found, through damage surveys and other visits, that a lot of schools settle for a cookbook-style, “one size fits all” approach to tornado safety — often based on outdated literature — which can be dangerous when considering the fact that every school is built differently. The basic concept in the schematic at right is usually correct; but it must be adapted to your unique school arrangements! For example, the idea of a relatively safe hallway becomes invalid if the hall is lined with plate glass, or if it has windows to the outdoors. Hallways can turn into wind tunnels filled with flying glass and other dangerous objects.

Ideally, the lowest possible level is the safest. However, in some large schools, there may not be enough time to direct all occupants of the upper floors into safe areas, or enough space in those lowest-floor safe areas to hold everyone. Ultimately, the school administrators need to evaluate the time, space, traffic flow and coordination needed to direct all the kids and staff down into safe areas in an organized manner. That will require a customized drill which will vary from building to building, so the guidelines here must be rather open-ended by necessity.

Some things to consider:

  • SECONDS COUNT. If it takes more than 2 or 3 minutes to move all upper-floor people down, things get really risky! Though the average lead (advance) time on tornado warnings has gone up a lot in recent years, remember that the average still includes some warnings with NO lead time, or just a minute or two. Warnings are not absolutely perfect, radars can’t see everything, and tornadoes don’t always touch down miles away and make themselves visible before hitting. Plan for a reasonable worst-case scenario — a tornado is spotted very closeby, and hits with little or no warning. That way, during the majority of cases when there are warnings with several minutes of lead time, the plan can be executed and those people are all in a safe place within one or two minutes of the first alert. That is the ultimate goal. Now, how do you define a “safe place?” There is no guaranteed “safe place” in a tornado; but…
  • FLYING DEBRIS is the biggest tornado hazard. That’s why one needs to put as many walls as possible between oneself and the tornado. Are there interior hallways, rooms or corridors on the second floor which are NOT exposed to the outside through windows, doors or walls of glass? If not, then it can turn into a death trap of flying broken glass. If there are enough enclosed places on the second floor with no direct exposure to the exterior, perhaps you can save the time needed to move people down one floor. But even then…
  • BUILDING STRENGTH: Architecturally, how sound is the construction of the main building? What interior parts can stay intact during total structural loads created by 150-200 mph winds (which exceed the speeds found in most tornadoes) from any direction? Is anyplace on an upper floor safe enough in such structural stresses? To best answer that, consult a professional architectural engineer — preferably one who has wind engineering experience. Sure, there are budgets to make; and such expertise won’t come cheap — but it can ultimately save lives. FEMA also has a discussion on construction of community tornado shelters, including those for schools. Other valuable sources for help are your local emergency manager’s office, and the Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) at your nearest National Weather Service office.
  • NEW CONSTRUCTION: Although this guide is intended for existing facilities, many of the same concepts can be applied to making tornado-safe schools from the blueprint stage. The same questions about wind damage and tornado safety should be asked of the architects and engineers. Again, this is where a licensed engineer with wind engineering specialization would be the most beneficial; and the FEMA tornado shelter guides are great resources too. FEMA also offers positive examples from Kansas of school tornado-sheltering work. Even if hiring a professional engineer isn’t an option, the builder can line with concrete enough interior rooms in the school to create a series of safe rooms to hold students. Safe rooms aren’t just for houses! They can also be retrofitted into existing facilities; but that is usually much costlier than building them in new construction.
  • PORTABLE CLASSROOMS: These can be death traps. Portable classrooms are most often constructed like mobile homes; and they are just as dangerous. Any sound tornado safety plan must include getting students out of portable classrooms and into a safe area in the main building, as quickly as possible, to minimize the time spend outside and exposed to the elements. While the seconds spent outside will pose considerable risk, the danger inside the trailer is just as great. If feasible, students should be evacuated from portable classrooms before the storm threatens — before the warning, when a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch is issued. Remember: Tornadoes can occur with little or no advance warning. Moving those students inside the main building for every SPC watch may be a hassle; but it may also save precious seconds and the lives of students if a tornado or extremely severe thunderstorm hits later.
  • DANGER – GYMS and AUDITORIUMS: Large, open-span areas, such as gymnasiums, auditoriums and most lunchrooms, can be very dangerous even in weak tornadoes, and should not be used for sheltering people. This sort of room has inherent structural weaknesses with lack of roof support, making them especially prone to collapse with weaker wind loading than more compact areas of the same school building. Consider the aerial photo of Caledonia (MS) High School (below) as an outstanding example of this, when the near side was hit by a tornado in January 2008.

    The next photo shows the inside of the Childress (TX) High School gym after a May 2006 tornado. The tornado was rated F1 (weak, on the original F-scale) at the school, although it did do F2 damage elsewhere. This further illustrates the hazard of indoor areas with large roof spans, even in “weak” tornadoes.  Neither of these schools had a commercial storm shelter / community storm shelter onsite.


SOME ADVANCE STRATEGIES

A carefully developed tornado drill should be run several times a year to keep students and staff in good practice, and to work out any kinks in the drill before it is needed for real. Also, large and easy to read maps or signs with arrows should be posted throughout the hallways directing people to the safe areas. Here are some other important tips:

  • If the school’s alarm system relies on electricity, have a compressed air horn or megaphone to sound the alert in case of power failure.
  • Make special provisions for disabled students and those in portable classrooms. Portable classrooms are like mobile homes — exceptionally dangerous in a tornado.
  • Make sure someone knows how to turn off electricity and gas in the event the school is damaged.
  • Keep children at school beyond regular hours if threatening weather is expected; and inform parents of this policy. Children are safer deep within a school than in a bus or car. Students should not be sent home early if severe weather is approaching, because they may still be out on the roads when it hits.
  • Lunches or assemblies in large rooms should be postponed if severe weather is approaching. As illustrated above, gymnasiums, cafeterias, and auditoriums offer no meaningful protection from tornado-strength winds. Also, even if there is no tornado, severe thunderstorms can generate winds strong enough to cause major damage.
  • Know the county/parish in which your school sits, and keep a highway map nearby to follow storm movement from weather bulletins. Online maps and weather sources can be valuable, but if the power is out, it helps to have paper maps.
  • Have a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery back-up to receive warnings quickly and directly from your local National Weather Service office. A new technology called WRSAME allows you to set such weather radios to alarm for your county and surrounding counties; so look for the WRSAME feature when purchasing weather radio units.
  • Listen to radio and television for information when severe weather is likely. Outlooks and watches from the Storm Prediction Center can also help you be aware of the possibility of severe weather during the school day.
  • Get a custom school storm shelter from Safe-T-Shelter, which provides state-of-the-art above ground storm shelters of all sizes.

WHEN THE TORNADO THREATENS OR A TORNADO WARNING IS ISSUED…

Illustration of Tornado Safety PostureSeconds count. Follow the drill according to the plan you have developed. Lead all students to the designated safe places in a calm, orderly and firm manner. Everyone should then crouch low, head down, protecting the back of the head with the arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.


AFTER THE TORNADO…

Keep students assembled in an orderly manner, in a safe area away from broken glass and other sharp debris, and away from power lines, puddles containing power lines, and emergency traffic areas. While waiting for emergency personnel to arrive, carefully render aid to those who are injured. Keep everyone out of damaged parts of the school; chunks of debris or even that whole section of the building may fall down. Ensure nobody is using matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. It is very important for teachers, principals and other adult authority figures to set a calm example for students at the disaster scene, and reassure those who are shaken.


Remember, there is no such thing as guaranteed safety from a tornado. Freak accidents happen; and the most violent tornadoes can level and blow away all but the most intensely fortified structures. Extremely violent EF5 tornadoes are very rare, though; and even within one’s path, only a small area has EF5 damage. Most of any tornado’s damage track is actually much weaker and can be survived using sound safety practices.

The best precaution is a commercial storm shelter / community storm shelter for all school children and staff onsite and easily accessible from the school.  At Safe-T-Shelter, we specialize in these custom shelters and can make any shelter for any size requirement.  Please contact us for a custom quote on a commercial storm shelter / community storm shelter for you school system or school administrator.

Tornado Shelters and Storm Shelters

Science Suggests More Active Tornadoes than Ever Before-Tornado Shelters are More Important than Ever

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Tornado Shelters, More Important than Ever

While there isn’t a long-term trend in the number of U.S. tornadoes stronger than EF0, several recent studies suggest the time distribution of those tornadoes and their tendency to cluster in outbreaks may be changing.  And more activity means having a plan in place to survive a storm is more important than ever.  And luckily, tornado shelters are less expensive and easier to install than in years past.

EF1 Tornado Days and Active Tornado Days

Fewer Tornado Days, But More Active Days

When eliminating EF0 tornadoes from yearly counts, which have steadily risen over the past few decades due to more extensive spotter networks, the implementation of Doppler radar, and advanced technology such as smartphones and social media, there is essentially no long-term yearly trend in the raw number of EF1 and stronger tornadoes.

However, the number of days with at least one EF1+ tornado in the U.S. has fallen from an average of 150 such days in the early 1970s to around 100 days in the first decade of the 21st century, according to an October 2014 study in the journal Science.

However, the study by noted tornado researchers Dr. Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory, Greg Carbin of NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, and Dr. Patrick Marsh, also of NOAA/SPC, found the number of days with a large number of tornadoes is actually increasing over time.

“The frequency of days with more than 30 EF1+ (tornadoes) has increased from 0.5 to 1 days per year in the 1960s and 1970s to 3 days per year over the past decade,” says the Brooks et al. study.

In essence, we have fewer days with tornadoes, but are packing more of them into the days we have. “Approximately 20 percent of the annual tornadoes in the most recent decade have occurred on the three biggest days of each year,” says the Brooks et al. study.  So knowing what to do when severe weather strikes, and ideally, having a residential storm shelter, a community storm shelter easily accessible in your city, or a corporate storm shelter or commercial tornado shelter at your business or school is more important than ever.

Another recent study by Dr. James Elsner not only found a similar clustering of tornadoes into fewer days, but also a spatial clustering of tornadoes on those very active days.

“It appears that the risk of big tornado days with densely concentrated clusters of tornadoes is increasing,” Elsner says in the July 2014 study.
Large Swings in Monthly, Yearly Numbers

These clusters cause more damage in a defined area.  So instead of being concerned about a single rotation, and potentially feeling relieved after a tornado passes, it is extremely important to be more vigilant and aware of other tornadoes in the area.  Residential tornado shelters and community storm shelters are the best option to protect yourself from these unpredictable storms.

For only the second time since 1950, the first three weeks of March 2015 passed without a single tornado anywhere in the U.S.
Yet as recently as 2011, almost 1,700 tornadoes ripped across the nation, including 349 tornadoes in a four-day outbreak from April 25-28, the costliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history.

While year-to-year variability has long been prevalent in U.S. tornado counts, a 2014 study by Dr. Michael Tippett found volatility, a term he uses for variability in tornado counts, has increased since 2000.

Furthermore, the Brooks et al. study found the tendency for more monthly extreme highs and lows in EF1+ tornado counts in recent years.

“Excluding the zero-tornado months, there are more extreme months in the most recent 15 years of the database (1999-2013) than in the first 45 years,” says Brooks et al. 2014.

In other words, we’ve seen extreme high monthly tornado counts (758 tornadoes in April 2011, for example) and extreme low monthly tornado counts (March 2015, for example) more often over the past 15 years, a trend that may continue.

Of course, low tornado count years do not preclude significant tornadoes or tornado outbreaks. Despite the lowest three-year tornado count on record from 2012-2014, we still had destructive outbreaks in March 2012, in May 2013 (Moore and El Reno, Oklahoma), and April 2014 (Vilonia, Arkansas).

When Tornado Season Shifts Into Gear, Skewing Earlier in the Year-The Time to Install an Above Ground Tornado Shelter is NOW

Tornadoes can occur any time of year the overlap of sufficient moisture, atmospheric instability — relatively cold, dry air aloft overlying warm, humid air near the Earth’s surface — and a strong source of lift such as a warm front, dryline, strong jet-stream disturbance occur.

Because of that, it’s difficult to define a tornado season on a national scale as distinctly as, say, a hurricane season.

However, Brooks et al. tracked as a metric the occurrence of the year’s 50th EF1+ tornado to get a sense of whether the timing of the ramp-up in U.S. tornadoes typically seen in spring is changing.

While the long-term average date (March 22) hasn’t changed, Brooks et al. found a marked increase in the number of “late-start” and “early-start” years since the late 1990s. The four latest starts and five of the ten earliest starts to the season all occurred in the 1999-2013 period. These range from late January (1999 and 2008) to late April (2002, 2003, 2004 and 2010).

In essence, even the date the season kicks into a higher gear is becoming more volatile-so don’t wait to install your tornado shelter.

Climate Change Role?

Now, the toughest question: Is climate change playing a role in the increasing variability of the nation’s tornadoes?

The short answer is, possibly.

The challenge in answering this question is linking short-fuse events like tornadoes and tornado outbreaks to long-term changes in atmospheric parameters generally conducive for severe thunderstorms, such as instability and wind shear.

Studies by Dr. Jeff Trapp and Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh, among others, suggest atmospheric instability, driven by increased moisture, is expected to be greater in a warming climate. However, wind shear, crucial for the formation of supercells which can produce the strongest tornadoes, may diminish overall, but may feature more days with higher wind shear.

Therefore, the overall environment may be more conducive for severe thunderstorms (with large hail and damaging winds), but it remains unclear whether the number of tornadoes or even strong tornadoes would necessarily rise in a warming world.

This brings up an interesting possibility, a seasonal outlook for severe weather, similar to hurricane season outlooks.
“I suspect that ultimately knowing if a severe weather season will be above, below, or near normal would be important for reinsurance portfolios as an increasing amount of money is spent on hail and wind claims,” said Dr. Patrick Marsh from NOAA/SPC.

The best advice is don’t think that you can predict the severity of tornado season or even when it begins, and definitely do not wait until after a storm strikes to realize the need to purchase a storm shelter.  Tornado shelters of all sizes are more affordable than ever and Safe-T-Shelter even partners with local credit unions for financing.  Everyone deserves the right to protect their family from unpredictable storms.  So whether it is a residential storm shelter, a community storm shelter, a commercial storm shelter or a corporate storm shelter, Safe-T-Shelter can help, and our 20+ years experience means you can have confidence in our products and our longevity.

November Torndoes-Storm Shelters and Tornado Shelters

Second Tornado Season-Have a Tornado Shelter Plan in Place

Autumn Tornadoes are Extremely Common

Of course Spring is known for its severe thunderstorms that can produce violent tornadoes. However, it’s not the only season known for tornadoes. Fall is considered the “second” tornado season.

“The second half of October, and especially November, can often be a second season for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms,” said tornado expert Dr. Greg Forbes. “In many ways, this is the counterpart to spring, when strong fronts and upper-air systems march across the United States. When enough warm, moist air accompanies these weather systems, the unstable conditions yield severe thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes.”

People need not have a false sense of security about severe weather and tornadoes simply because the seasons change.  It is extremely important to have a plan in place to keep you, your family, your coworkers, your city, etc. safe during an unpredictable storm.  And Safe-T-Shelter Storm Shelters are the perfect solution for residential storm shelters, community storm shelters, and commercial storm shelters.

One benefit to the cooler temperatures is that installing community storm shelters or corporate tornado shelters is often a faster process due to less demand.

November Torndoes-Storm Shelters and Tornado Shelters
Second Tornado Season: October and November

While most of the largest tornado outbreaks still occur in spring, fall has its share of storms as well. Dr. Forbes examined the storm statistics and found six of the largest 55 known tornado outbreaks occurred in October and November.

May is still the peak month for tornadoes. Up to 52 percent of September’s tornado outbreaks are due to land-falling tropical storms and hurricanes.

October and November’s tornadoes are caused by upper-level troughs (dips in the jet stream) and cold fronts affecting the South and sometimes the Midwest.

The map above shows how many tornadoes have been confirmed by the National Weather Service during the month of November from 1950-2014. Texas has the most, but when adjusted for total area, Mississippi has the most, followed closely by Louisiana and Alabama.

As the map suggests, second-season tornado outbreaks are most common in the Gulf Coast states, where temperature and humidity levels tend to be higher. They can sometimes spread north to the Ohio Valley and southern Great Lakes.

On rare occasions, weak tornadoes can form on the West Coast in November.

Greatest Second-Season Tornado Outbreak: Nov. 21-23, 1992 – 105 Tornadoes

States affected: 13 total, from Texas to the Carolinas.
26 people were killed and 638 were injured.
The outbreak caused $713 million in damage; the Houston area was hit especially hard.
It was rated a top-five worst tornado outbreak in any month since 1950 by Dr. Forbes.
White Plains, Georgia, was practically leveled by an F4 tornado on November 22, 1992.

This outbreak started the Saturday before Thanksgiving 1992 in Houston. An incredible seven tornadoes were spawned in the span of just two hours in the metro area, with three twisters on the ground at one particular time in Harris County. The strongest tornado, rated F4, destroyed more than 200 homes on Houston’s east side. This was the strongest tornado to hit the Houston metro since 1950.
Another EF4 tornado went on a 128-mile-long rampage through Mississippi overnight Saturday into Sunday morning, Nov. 22. The storm claimed 12 lives and damaged or destroyed more than 700 homes.

Fifteen tornadoes touched down in Indiana that Sunday, the largest November outbreak in state records. One tornado was an F4 in southeast Indiana and northern Kentucky. Not to be left out, other F4 tornadoes carved a swath through the far northwest suburbs of Atlanta, and also struck near White Plains and Lake Oconee, Georgia.

Finally, a pair of F3 tornadoes in North Carolina killed two and injured 59.

The message is clear, do not get complacent about tornadoes at any time.  The vast majority of the US is at risk of tornadoes for the vast majority of the year.  Have a plan in place and if you do not have a safe place to go, please contact Safe-T-Shelter to assist in your needs of a residential storm shelter, community storm shelter, or a commercial storm shelter / corporate storm shelter for your employees.  With over 20 years experience and countless storm tested shelters, by choosing Safe-T-Shelter you can be confident and feel safe, no matter how strong the storm.

Don’t Wait for Tragedy to See the Need for a Storm Shelter from Safe-T-Shelter

Tornado Shelters and Storm Shelters

Tornado Safety Questions and Answers

Tornado Safety Questions and Answers

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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.

 

Tornado Safety Questions and Answers from NOAA:

 

What should I do in case of a tornado?

That depends on where you are. This list of tornado safety tips covers most situations.

 

What is a tornado watch?

A tornado watch defines a cluster of counties where tornadoes and other kinds of severe weather are possible in the next several hours. It does not mean tornadoes are imminent, just that you need to be alert, and to be prepared to go to safe shelter if tornadoes do happen or a warning is issued. This is the time to turn on local TV or radio, turn on and set the alarm switch on your weather radio, make sure you have ready access to safe shelter, and make your friends and family aware of the potential for tornadoes in the area. The Storm Prediction Center issues tornado and severe thunderstorm watches; here is an example.

 

What is a tornado warning?

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted, or that Doppler radar indicates a thunderstorm circulation which can spawn a tornado. When a tornado warning is issued for your town or county, take immediate safety precautions. local NWS offices issue tornado warnings.

 

Do mobile homes attract tornadoes?

Of course not. It may seem that way, considering most tornado deaths occur in them, and that some of the most graphic reports of tornado damage come from mobile home communities. The reason for this is that mobile homes are, in general, much easier for a tornado to damage and destroy than well-built houses and office buildings. A brief, relatively weak tornado which may have gone undetected in the wilderness, or misclassified as severe straight-line thunderstorm winds while doing minor damage to sturdy houses, can blow a mobile home apart. Historically, mobile home parks have been reliable indicators, not attractors, of tornadoes. Mobile home communities are also great places for our community shelters to be installed.  If you live in a mobile home community, please tell the owner of the mobile home park to contact Safe-T-Shelter through our website www.stormshelter.com for a free cost estimate for a community shelter.

 

Long ago, I was told to open windows to equalize pressure. Now I have heard that’s a bad thing to do. Which is right?

Opening the windows is absolutely useless, a waste of precious time, and can be very dangerous. Don’t do it. You may be injured by flying glass trying to do it. And if the tornado hits your home, it will blast the windows open anyway.

 

I’ve seen a video of people running under a bridge to ride out a tornado. Is that safe?

Absolutely not! Stopping under a bridge to take shelter from a tornado is a very dangerous idea, for several reasons:

Deadly flying debris can still be blasted into the spaces between bridge and grade, and impaled in any people hiding there.
Even when strongly gripping the girders (if they exist), people may be blown loose, out from under the bridge and into the open–possibly well up into the tornado itself. Chances for survival are not good if that happens.
The bridge itself may fail, peeling apart and creating large flying objects, or even collapsing down onto people underneath. The structural integrity of many bridges in tornado winds is unknown–even for those which may look sturdy.
Whether or not the tornado hits, parking on traffic lanes is illegal and dangerous to yourself and others. It creates a potentially deadly hazard for others, who may plow into your vehicle at full highway speeds in the rain, hail, and/or dust.
Also, it can trap people in the storm’s path against their will, or block emergency vehicles from saving lives.
The people in that infamous video were extremely fortunate not to have been hurt or killed. They were actually not inside the tornado vortex itself, but instead in a surface inflow jet–a small belt of intense wind flowing into the base of the tornado a few dozen yards to their south. Even then, flying debris could have caused serious injury or death. More recently, on 3 May 1999, two people were killed and several others injured outdoors in Newcastle and Moore OK, when a violent tornado blew them out from under bridges on I-44 and I-35. Another person was killed that night in his truck, which was parked under a bridge. For more information, meteorologist Dan Miller of NWS Duluth has assembled an online slide presentation about this problem.

 

So if I’m in a car, which is supposed to be very unsafe, and shouldn’t get under a bridge, what can I do?

Vehicles are notorious as death traps in tornadoes, because they are easily tossed and destroyed. Either leave the vehicle for sturdy shelter or drive out of the tornado’s path. When the traffic is jammed or the tornado is bearing down on you at close range, your only option may be to park safely off the traffic lanes, get out and find a sturdy building for shelter, if possible. If not, lie flat in a low spot, as far from the road as possible (to avoid flying vehicles). However, in open country, the best option is to escape if the tornado is far away. If the traffic allows, and the tornado is distant, you probably have time to drive out of its path. Watch the tornado closely for a few seconds compared to a fixed object in the foreground (such as a tree, pole, or other landmark). If it appears to be moving to your right or left, it is not moving toward you. Still, you should escape at right angles to its track: to your right if it is moving to your left, and vice versa–just to put more distance between you and its path. If the tornado appears to stay in the same place, growing larger or getting closer–but not moving either right or left–it is headed right at you. You must take shelter away from the car or get out of its way fast! If the tornado starts to hit your car, get as low as you can while staying in your seatbelt, leaning down and away from the windows and windshield as far as possible.

 

I have a basement, and my friend said to go to the southwest corner in a tornado. Is that good?

Not necessarily. The SW corner is no safer than any other part of the basement, because walls, floors and furniture can collapse (or be blown) into any corner. The “safe southwest corner” is an old myth based on the belief that, since tornadoes usually come from the SW, debris will preferentially fall into the NE side of the basement. There are several problems with this concept, including:

Tornadoes are mostly circular, so the damaging wind may blow from any direction; and
Tornadoes themselves may arrive from any direction.
In a basement, the safest place is under a sturdy workbench, mattress or other such protection–and out from under heavy furniture or appliances resting on top of the floor above.

 

What is a safe room?

So-called “safe rooms” are reinforced small rooms built in the interior of a home, fortified by concrete and/or steel to offer extra protection against tornadoes, hurricanes and other severe windstorms. They can be built in a basement, or if no basement is available, on the ground floor. In existing homes, interior bathrooms or closets can be fortified into “safe rooms” also. FEMA has more details online. Those who have safe rooms, or any other kind of tornado shelter, should register them with the local fire department to help with rescue in case the entrance(s) are blocked by debris.  If your home does not have a residential storm shelter or safe room, contact us for a free quote.  We also offer low or no interest financing if needed to ensure all those that would like to protect themselves from a potential storm, are able to do so.  You can contact us through our website here (www.stormshelter.com) or at our local or 800# listed above at the top of each page.

 

How can building codes help, or hurt, tornado safety?

Building codes vary greatly across the country, not only from state to state but even from place to place in one county. Codes also have changed over time so that different ages of housing stock in the same community can have different legal standards of strength. Enforcement of codes also can be highly variable, both over time and from place to place. Even the strictest codes won’t help without rigorous enforcement. The bottom line: if you buy an existing house or business structure, you cannot fully know its tornado resistance without knocking holes in wall paneling and exposing areas such as wall-foundation attachments, wall-roof connections and (for multi-story structures) internal attachments from one level to another. The best bet for existing stock may be to retrofit or add on a tornado shelter of some sort, depending on your needs and finances. For new construction, the most tornado-ready codes require, among other things: anchor bolts with nuts and washers attached (connecting foundation to floor plate), strong ties (a.k.a. hurricane clips) connecting floor plate to wall studs and wall studs to roof, and use of straight nails or screws for other connections, not cut nails. If you are considering new construction, please check with your local building-regulation agency, demand above-code work to the level you can afford, and directly monitor your builder’s subcontractors at those crucial early stages to ensure compliance with your own higher standards. NIST has recommended raising standards nationwide, based on their study of the Joplin tornado from 2011.

 

What about community tornado shelters?

Community tornado shelters are excellent ideas for apartment complexes, schools, mobile home parks, factories, office complexes and other facilities where large groups of people live, work or study. FEMA has some excellent design and construction guidance for these kinds of shelters; and a licensed engineer can help customize them to the needs of your facility.  We offer community storm shelters for businesses, or communities alike.  If you are interested in a no obligation cost estimate, please contact us here through our website, or call us during normal business hours.  With over 21 years of experience, and our shelters surviving many direct hits with 0 fatalities, you can count on our product and the quality of our service.  We would love to help keep you and your community or business safe.  We have custom and prefab tornado shelters for sale of all sizes.

 

What about tornado safety in sports stadiums or outdoor festivals?

Excellent question–and a very, very disturbing one to many meteorologists and event planners. Tornadoes have passed close to such gatherings on a few occasions, including a horse race in Omaha on 6 May 1975 and a crowded dog track in West Memphis AR on 14 December 1987. A supercell without a tornado hit a riverside festival in Ft. Worth in 1995, catching over 10,000 people outdoors and bashing many of them with hail bigger than baseballs. Tornadoes have hit the football stadium for the NFL Tennessee Titans, and the basketball arena for the NBA Utah Jazz. Fortunately, they were both nearly empty of people at the time. There is the potential for massive death tolls if a stadium or fairground is hit by a tornado during a concert, festival or sporting event, even with a warning in effect. Fans may never know about the warning; and even if they do, mass disorder could result in casualties even if the tornado doesn’t hit. Stadium, race track and festival managers should work with local emergency management officials to develop a plan for tornado emergencies–both for crowd safety during the watch and warning stages, and (similar to a terrorism plan) for dealing with mass casualties after the tornado.

 

I am a school administrator, and I don’t know where to start with developing a safety plan. Can you help?

Gladly. Every school is different, so a safety plan which works fine for one may not be well-suited for another. There is a website with preparedness tips for school administrators which can provide helpful tips in devising a safety plan. These strategies can be adapted for nursing homes, dorms, barracks and similar structures as well.  Please contact us for a free no obligation cost estimate to provide you with a community storm shelter to protect your school (business, or community).  With over 21 years of experience and with many direct hits to our shelters, we have never had a failure or a lost life.  We would love to help you ensure the safety of all people in your school (business or community) when the next storm strikes.

 

I am seeking advice to protect employees in a large, one-story commercial building that has pre-poured cement outer walls and a metal roof. We have no basement, the interior offices are drywall partitions with a dropped ceiling and there does not appear to be any area that is secure. The local fire department has no suggestions.

This manner of construction is very common; however, it’s hard to know the integrity of any particular building without an engineering analysis, preferably by hiring a specialist with experience in wind engineering. My experience doing damage surveys is that large-span, pre-fab, concrete and metal beam buildings are sturdy up to a “failure point”–which can vary a lot from site to site–but then crumple quickly and violently once that threshold is reached. A concrete-lined (and -topped) safe room with no windows is recommended. This is an emergency bunker that may double as a restroom, break room or employee lounge, but should be big enough to fit all occupants in the event of a warning. For more information on safe rooms, see FEMA’s safe room page, which deals mainly with residential construction, but which can be adapted for office use. FEMA also has posted a page on in-hospital shelter in Kansas, that may be useful for this purpose also. The Wind Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University also provides guidance about shelters. The insulated concrete form (ICF) is a very wind- and debris-resistant construction method for many small buildings or additions, whether doing new construction or retrofitting.  But the best course of action is to contact us for a free no obligation cost estimate to supply your business with a custom tornado shelter to protect your employees from an unpredictable storm.  We offer storm shelters and safe rooms to protect a single person or 500+.  We can customize our offerings to your exact needs because we build them in our facility.  We are not a reseller and that leads to cost savings and more peace of mind due to the transparency of our operations and our reputation that has been built over more than 21 years in business protecting people from dangerous tornadoes.

 

What would happen if a large, violent tornado hit a major city today?

This has happened on several occasions, including in parts of Oklahoma City on 3 May 1999 and Birmingham on 27 April 2011. Because of excellent, timely watches and warnings and intense media coverage of the Oklahoma tornado long before it hit, only 36 people were killed. The damage toll exceeded $1 billion. Still, it did not strike downtown, and passed over many miles of undeveloped land. Moving the same path north or south in the same area may have led to much greater death and damage tolls. The threat exists for a far worse disaster! Placing the same tornado outbreak in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, especially during rush hour gridlock (with up to 62,000 vehicles stuck in the path), the damage could triple what was done in Oklahoma. There could be staggering death tolls in the hundreds or thousands, devastated infrastructure, overwhelmed emergency services, and massive amounts of rubble requiring months of cleanup. Ponder the prospect of such a tornado’s path in downtown Dallas, for example. The North Texas Council of Governments and NWS Ft. Worth has compiled a very detailed study of several such violent tornado disaster scenarios in the Metroplex, which could be adapted to other major metro areas as well.

 

Could we have some sort of alert system where a computer automatically calls people in a tornado warning to let them know they could be in danger?

This idea has some merit. Right now, though, there are several logistical problems. First, a tornado may take out phone lines, or the power to run them. Barring that, the phone network reaches saturation pretty easily if someone (or something) tries to try to dial thousands of numbers at once. Finally, people would need to be patient and willing to accept a majority of false alarm calls. Most tornado warnings do not contain tornadoes, because of the uncertainties built into tornado detection which we can’t yet help. And even when a tornado happens, it usually hits only a tiny fraction of the warned area (again, because of forecasting uncertainties); so most people called by the automated system would not be directly hit.

 

Are there smartphone apps that offer warnings for tornadoes and other kinds of dangerous weather?

Yes, private companies have developed several apps that relay NWS tornado warnings to smartphones, based on their location and/or user-specified places. For example, you can set some apps to always provide warnings for certain ZIP codes or addresses of interest away from your current location, such as those of your home, business, or friends and loved ones. We cannot endorse any particular apps, but a search in your device provider’s app store should yield some that are highly rated, along with reviews by users. NOAA has partnered with major cellular providers to push “Wireless Emergency Alerts” to most modern cell phones, and those include tornado warnings. Also, some local governments have enacted warning-alert systems that alarm phones in their jurisdictions when warnings are issued. Please check with your local emergency management agency to see if such a system is in place in your area, or soon will be. Caution: cell-phone warnings cannot work if the phone system is disabled, and might fail or be delayed if the network is overloaded (as can happen during a major storm or other disaster).

 

I recently moved from the Plains and noticed that there are no “tornado warning” sirens here. Is this because tornadoes don’t occur here? Isn’t it required to have sirens everywhere?

There is no nationwide requirement for tornado sirens. Siren policy is local and varies from place to place. The National Weather Service has no control over sirens or siren policy. The NWS issues watches and warnings; but it is up to the local governments to have a community readiness system in place for their citizens. In conversations with emergency managers and spotter coordinators, I have found that the two most common reasons for a lack of sirens are low budgets and the misconception that tornadoes cannot happen in an area. Your city and/or county emergency manager would be the first person to query about the tornado preparedness program in your community. Remember: outdoor sirens are for outdoor use. Everyone should have ways to receive warnings besides sirens.

 

Our office would like to print signs (universal symbol image type signs) similar to “emergency exit,” “fire extinguisher,” etc. that could be used to identify designated tornado shelter areas. Can you provide me with a graphic or something I can use?

Sure! There isn’t a universal tornado shelter symbol yet. Any such sign should be very bold and noticeable–yet designed to be simple, with minimal visual clutter, so even a small child can recognize it. In response to this question, here is one possible tornado shelter sign which may be printed and used freely. There are also versions with arrows pointing right, left, up, and down. The signs ideally should be printed in color, on heavy card stock or sticker paper for durability.

 

Thanks for reading our Tornado Safety Questions and Answers and please contact us through our website if you are interested in exploring a tornado shelter for your home, business, or community.

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.

Extreme Tornado Outbreaks Are on the Rise, Study Says

Extreme Tornado Outbreaks Are on the Rise, Study Says

The average number tornado outbreaks that bring multiple twisters from a single weather event is on the rise in the U.S., according to new research, and the findings could change the way insurers and disaster preparedness officials respond to tornadoes.

The time to get a Storm Shelter is NOW!

Scientists say the reason isn’t clear but climate change could play a role

The average number tornado outbreaks that bring multiple twisters from a single weather event is on the rise in the U.S., according to new research, and the findings could change the way insurers and disaster preparedness officials respond to tornadoes.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, also shows an increased variability in the number of tornadoes from one outbreak to another. Higher variability means that large outbreaks that result in multiple tornadoes can be more common while the total number of tornadoes in a given year remains relatively constant. Tornado outbreaks result in dozens and sometimes hundreds of tornadoes each year and cause billions of dollars in damage. One such outbreak in 2011 resulted in 363 tornadoes in North America that killed more than 350 people.

“It means that when it rains, it really, really, really pours,” says study co-author Joel Cohen, a professor at Rockefeller and Columbia University, in a press release.

The reason behind the change in tornado patterns remains unclear. The short length, unpredictable arrival and relatively small size of tornadoes make them difficult to study. But researchers suggest that climate change may be a possible explanation for the change in patterns. The weather phenomenon occurs during periods of atmospheric instability and when there are large differences in wind speed in a given area known as “wind shear,” both of which could be affected by temperature increases.

“The science is still open,” says study co-author Michael Tippett, a climate and weather researcher at Columbia University, in a press release. “It could be global warming, but our usual tools, the observational record and computer models, are not up to the task of answering this question yet.”

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.

Community Storm Shelters

Tennessee Valley Tornado Shelter Locations (separated by County)

List updated April 2015

CHEROKEE COUNTY

Industrial Blvd, next to Leesburg Town Hall
Leesburg, AL
Holds 150-200 people

COLBERT COUNTY

14439 County Line Road
Ford City/Leighton
Holds 100+ people

8856 Main Street
Leighton
Holds 100+ people

1448 Jackson Highway
Littleville
Holds 100+ people

1211 2nd Street
Cherokee
Holds 100+ people

Colbert County EMA Office
120 West 5th Street
Tuscumbia
Holds about 50 people

Intersection of County Line Road and 2nd Street (Underwood Crossroads)
12491 County Line Road
Leighton
Holds about 80 people

Rose Trail Park
37 Rose Trail Park
Riverton (next to Riverton VFD)
Holds about 80 people

Nitrate City Volunteer Fire Dept.
1341 Alabama Avenue
Muscle Shoals
Holds about 80 people

Highway 247 Volunteer Fire Dept.
4639 Highway 247
Tuscumbia
Holds 40 people

2848 Denton Road
Tuscumbia
Holds 40 people

County Yard, Tuscumbia
914 South Hickory Street
Tuscumbia
Holds about 80 people

Colbert Alloys Park
191 Alloys Park Lane
Muscle Shoals
Holds about 80 people

Updated April 7, 2014. Colbert County has plans to add 14 more shelters in the next few years.

CULLMAN COUNTY

Baileyton
112 Fairview Rd
Capacity: 96
No pets

Chapel Village/Jones Chapel
74 County Rd 1034, Cullman, AL 35057
Capacity 90-100
No pets

Cullman County Courthouse Basement
500 2nd Ave SW, Cullman, AL 35055
No pets

Dodge City Town Hall – basement
130 Howard Circle, Hanceville, AL 35077
(basement was built to storm shelter standards)

Dodge City Volunteer Fire Department
7150 County Rd 223
Capacity: 96
No pets

Fairview Housing Authority
501 1st Ave SW
Capacity: 90-100
No pets

Garden City Town Hall
501 1st Ave SW
Capacity: 450+ people
No pets

Good Hope City Hall (Basement)
134 Town Hall Dr, Cullman, AL 35057
Capacity: 100
No pets

Good Hope freestanding shelter behind City Hall
Accessed via Madison Dr.
Capacity: 96
No pets

Good Hope Volunteer Fire Department #2
301 Day Gap Rd
Capacity: 96
No pets

Hanceville – three shelters:
202 Bangor Avenue SE
1407 Commercial Street SE
203 Michelle Street NW
No pets

Smith Lake Park
420 County Rd 385
Capacity: 96
No pets

South Vinemont
88 Ridgeway St
Capacity: 96
No pets

Vinemont Providence Volunteer Fire Department #1
576 County Rd 1355, Vinemont, AL 35179
Capacity: 200
No pets

Vinemont Providence Volunteer Fire Department #2
60 Ridgeway St
Capacity: 200
No pets

West Point
4050 County Rd 1141
Capacity: 96
No pets

DEKALB COUNTY

Crossville, at the fire department
96 people

DeKalb County Activities Building
Fort Payne
(basement – can hold about 200 people)

Fyffe Senior Center
413 Graves Street
(Holds about 20 people)

Fyffe Town Hall
Holds 96 people

Fyffe Church of God
778 Main Street, Fyffe
(256) 623-3822
(please call first to see if shelter is open)

Geraldine Town Hall
96 people

Greenbriar Avenue
Henagar (holds 96 people)

Main Street, Powell (across from Town Hall)
Holds 96 people

Northeast Alabama Community College
Rainsville
Opening at 9:00 p.m.
Shelter holds 1000-1500 people

Plainview School
Shelter can hold 600-700 people

Shiloh, at fire department
96 people

Sylvania, next to fire department
14 Enterprise Street
Sylvania, AL 35988
Holds 96 people

Upper Sand Mountain Parish (private-run shelter)
24474 Sylvania Road
Sylvania, AL 35988

ETOWAH COUNTY

The Gadsden/Etowah County EMA has a website where you can see all open shelters on a map to find the closest to you. Click here to view that map.

Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church
5950 Sardis Rd, Boaz, Al 35956
Handicap Accessible

Black Creek Volunteer Fire Department
20 Styles Bridge Rd, Collinsville, AL 35961
Handicap Accessible
Pets Allowed

Etowah Baptist Association
853 Walnut St.
Downtown Gadsden
Handicap Accessible

First Baptist Church Southside
2560 Mountain View Dr, Southside, AL 35907
Handicap Accessible
Pets Allowed with Crates

First Baptist Church of Hokes Bluff
5052 Main St, Hokes Bluff, AL 35903
Handicap Accessible

Gadsden Public Library
254 College St.
Downtown Gadsden
Handicap Accessible
Pets Allowed

Goodyear Heights Baptist Church
608 Kaying Rd. N
E. Gadsden/Glencoe
Handicap Accessible

New Bethel First Congressional Methodist Church
6673 Main St, Hokes Bluff, AL 35903
Handicap Accessible
Pets Allowed with Crates

NE Etowah Community Center
3733 US Hwy 411 N
Nothern Etowah County, Near Gaston School
Handicap Accessible
Pets Allowed
FEMA P-361 Compliant

Paden Baptist Church
900 Padenreich Ave
Near Gadsden State Community College
Handicap Accessible

Stowers Hill Baptist Church
407 Ninth Ave. SW, Attalla, AL 35954
Handicap Accessible
Pets Allowed with Crates

Young’s Chapel Methodist Church
44 Youngs Chapel Rd
Hokes Bluff/Piedmont
Handicap Accessible
Pets Allowed with Crates

FRANKLIN COUNTY

Shelter behind Hodges City Hall
1842 Hwy. 172
Hodges

Phil Campbell Community Center
132 Sherry Bryce Dr.
Phil Campbell

Blue Springs Fire Department
Highway 75
Phil Campbell

Vina Fire Department
79 Church Street
Vina

Red Bay Water Park
640 2nd St NE
Red Bay

Red Bay Old Airport
627 9th Ave NW
Red Bay

Russellville Park & Rec Center
204 Ash Ave
Russellville

511 Gaines Ave
Russellville

Pleasant Site Fire Department
2785 Hwy. 90
Pleasant Site

Burnout Fire Department
75 Hwy 224
Burnout

Shelter Near Belgreen School Gym
14141 Hwy 187
Belgreen

JACKSON COUNTY

Bridgeport Shelter
602 Broadway Ave, Bridgeport, AL

Bridgeport Shelter
2105 5th St, Bridgeport, AL

Dutton Town Hall
69 Browntown Road (Basement)
Holds 250-300 people

Jackson County Courthouse (basement)
123 East Laurel Street
Scottsboro
(256) 574-9330
Occupancy: 100

Langston Safe Room
9277 County Rd. 67, Langston, AL

Section City Hall
72 Dutton Rd, Section, AL
Basement

Paint Rock Shelter
3227 U.S. Highway 72, Paint Rock, AL

Stevenson Shelter
905 E. 2nd Street, Stevenson, AL

Stevenson Shelter
802 Kentucky Ave, Stevenson, AL

LAUDERDALE COUNTY

North Wood United Methodist Church
1129 N Wood Ave
Florence, AL

Petersville Church of Christ
3601 Cloverdale Rd.
Florence, AL

Underwood/Petersville Community Center
840 County Road7
Florence, AL

Stoney Point Church of Christ
1755 County Road 24
Florence, AL

Williams Chapel Presbyterian Church
6401 County Road 1
Waterloo, AL

Killen United Methodist Church
201 J.C. Mauldin Hwy.
Killen, AL

Bank Independent
11250 Hwy. 101
Lexington, AL

Lexington Town Hall (Old Vault Area)
11060 Hwy. 101
Lexingon, AL

Woodmont Baptist Church
2001 Darby Drive
Florence, AL

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church
8880 County Road 71 (Old Lexington Florence Road, southwest of Lexington)
Lexington, AL

First Baptist Church of Anderson
245 Church St.
Anderson, AL

Rogersville United Methodist Church
51 Turner Lindsey Road
Rogersville, AL

Rogersville Church of Christ
450 College Street (County Road 26)
Rogersville, AL

First Baptist Church of Rogersville
222 College Street (County Road 26)
Rogersville, AL

Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church
2705 County Rd 222
Florence, AL 35633

Elgin United Methodist Church
2743 Hwy 101
Elgin, AL

LAWRENCE COUNTY

Roy Coffee Park
3581 Jefferson Street
Courtland
Holds 96 people

First Baptist Church
Jefferson Street
Courtland
(*North Courtland residents – please feel free to use this one)

6619 County Road 81
Danville (next to the Speake Senior Center)
Holds 96 people

11720 Main Street
Hillsboro
Holds 96 people

Chalybeate – next to Chalybeate VFD
69 County Road 296
Hillsboro
Holds 96 people

14201 Court Street
Moulton
Holds 720 people

Wren Community Shelter
(Behind Pleasant Grove Church)
11440 Alabama Highway 33
Moulton
Holds 96 people

Mount Hope Senior Center
3142 County Road 460
Mount Hope
Holds 96 people

7042 Alabama Highway 101
(Hatton community – at the Hatton Senior Center)
Town Creek
Holds 96 people

Red Bank Park
1933 County Road 314
Town Creek
Holds 96 people

1025 Wallace Street
Town Creek
Holds 192 people

Veterans Memorial Park
6229 County Road 214
Trinity
Holds 96 people

LIMESTONE COUNTY

Ardmore City Hall
25844 Main St.
Ardmore, TN 38449
Holds 150 people

Ardmore Public Shelter
29910 Park Avenue (across from the Boys and Girls Club)
Ardmore, AL
Holds 300 people

Clements Community Safe Room
9158 U.S. Hwy. 72 W., Athens, AL 35611
Holds approximately 100 people

Community shelter/East Limestone area
Basement of Bethel Church of Christ
Intersection of Bledsoe Road and Capshaw Road
26772 Capshaw Road
Athens, AL 35613

Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
1418 Old Railroad Bed Road
Madison, AL 35757-6613
Open when there is a watch or warning issued for Madison or Limestone counties

Goodsprings Community Shelter
33634 AL Hwy. 99, Anderson, AL 35610
Holds 150 people

Lester Community Shelter
30306 Lester Rd., Lester, AL 35647
Holds 100 people

Owens Elementary School
21465 AL Hwy. 99, Athens, AL 35611
Holds 600 people
Will be open to the public after school hours only

Pleasant Grove Safe Room
9080 Upper Snake Road, Athens, AL 35614
Holds 150 people

Ark of Promise Church Safe Room
15199 Browns Ferry Road, Reid, AL 35611
Holds 200 people

West Limestone High School
10945 School House Rd., Lester, AL 35647
Holds 1,000 people
Will be open to the public after school hours only

LINCOLN COUNTY, TN

Belleville Community Center

Blanche School
1649 Ardmore Hwy

Boonshill Community Center
8o Red Oak Road
Fayetteville, TN

Delrose Fire Station
1 Front Street
Delrose, TN

Fayetteville Municipal Building
East side Square
Fayetteville, TN

Flintville First Baptist Church
200 Flintville Rd

Flintville School
36 Flintville School Rd.

Lincoln County Courthouse
On the square
Fayetteville, TN

Lincoln County High School
Hwy 231/431
Fayetteville, TN

Mimosa Coummunity Center
464 Mimosa Rd

Park City Church of Christ
42 McDougal Road
Fayetteville, TN
(931) 433-7691

Petersburg Town Hall
120 East Side Square
Petersburg, TN

State Line Church of Christ
Hwy 231-431S

Stewarts Chapel Church
Stewarts Chapel Rd

MADISON COUNTY

Visit sheltermadison.com for information on storm shelters. Madison County does not operate public shelters, but here is a list of shelters run by municipalities, churches and community groups. They are open to the public. Most do not allow pets, though.

Faith Presbyterian Church
5003 Whitesburg Drive
Huntsville, AL 35803
Will hold about 40 people. Rooms located at south end of the building which is handicap accessible. Currently open when tornado threat coincides with normal office hours or church service times.

James Clemens High School
Madison, AL
Capacity: 500 people
*Handicap accessible, pets allowed in carriers/crates

New Hope
5507 Main Drive, New Hope AL 35760
just across from Town Hall
2 shelters, located side by side
Will hold around 300 people total
No pets allowed, only service animals

New Hope United Methodist Church
5351 Main Drive, New Hope
Holds around 100 people

Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church
292 Cemetery Road
New Market
Will opening as shelter after tornado warning is issued in Limestone County

Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
1418 Old Railroad Bed Road
Madison, AL 35757-6613
Capacity: 100 people
Open when there is a tornado watch or warning issued for Madison or Limestone counties. Call (256) 232-3331, option 3 (if the shelter is open, the shelter phone will be manned.) No pets allowed. Please make other arrangements for your pets before severe weather arrives.

Harvest Youth Club
230 Lockhart Road
Harvest, AL 35749
*Shelter opens any time there is a tornado watch issued in Limestone County. Above-ground shelter, holds 125 people; 1 bag per person, no pets, only service animals
Phone number is (256) 217-0320 – but phone is not located in shelter, so if they’re inside, they won’t be able to answer.

Flint River Baptist Church
12945 Hwy 231/431 North, Hazel Green (next to Meridianville Middle School)
Church will open when a tornado watch is issued and remain open as long as needed
Enter through the “Student Entrance” door located at the back of the building
Pets are allowed in carriers
(256) 828-3692
Shelter holds 150 people

Murphy Hill Baptist Church
626 Murphy Hill Road, Toney, AL 35773
Has 5 shelters, each hold about 12 people
(256) 828-3171

Parker Chapel United Methodist Church
28670 Powell Road
Madison, AL 35756
Underground shelter – holds about 50 people

The Madison County EMA does not operate any public shelters. After the tornadoes of April 2011, the county made the decision to distribute FEMA grant money to individuals to install storm shelters in private homes. The county is not affiliated with the shelters listed above.

MARSHALL COUNTY

Asbury Martling
4059 Martling Rd, Albertville
By Martling Senior Center

Claysville
22165 US Hwy 431, Guntersville
By Cedar Lodge Center

Douglas
165 Hwy 168, Douglas
By Douglas Town Hall

Georgia Mountain
2485 Georgia Mtn Rd, Guntersville
By Georgia Mtn VFD

Grant
307 2nd Ave West, Grant
(by Grant Recreation Center)

Grant
21 1st Ave West, Grant
By D2 Shop

Hebron
90 Hebron School Rd, Grant
By Hebron VFD

Martling Senior Center
Albertville

Mt. Pleasant
5743 Simpson Point Rd, Grant

Nixon Chapel
7925 Nixon Chapel Rd, Horton
By Nixon Chapel VFD

Pleasant Grove
7275 Section Line Road, Albertville
By Pleasant Grove VFD

Riverview
1345 Cha-La-Kee Road, Guntersville
By Riverview Campground

Scant City
3850 Eddy Scant Rd, Arab
By D1 Shop

Swearengin
5120 Swearengin Rd, Swearengin
By Swearengin VFD

Union Grove
3680 Union Grove Rd, Union Grove
By Union Grove Town Hall

Wakefield
777 South Sauty Rd, Langston
By Wakefield VFD

Wakefield Volunteer Fire Department
Whitesville
118 Whitesville Church Rd, Boaz

MORGAN COUNTY

Danville Volunteer Fire Department
5798 Hwy 36 West
Danville, AL 35619
2 shelters at this location – both hold 98 people

Decatur City Hall
(Basement)
Decatur, AL

Abundant Life Church
524 Lafayette St. NE
Decatur, AL 35601
(256) 345-9930
Basement holds 125-150 people

Somerville City Hall
192 Broad Street
Somerville, AL 35670
Holds 96 people – no smoking, no pets

Cutoff Road, half a mile south of Alabama 67 in the Cross Creek housing area
Somerville, AL
Holds 96 people – no smoking, no pets

Massey Volunteer Fire Department
386 Evergreen Road
Danville, AL
Holds 98 people

Morgan City Community Shelter
Located behind the new Brindlee Mountain Fire Department facility
U.S. 231
Open any time a Tornado Watch or Tornado Warning is issued for Morgan County

Morgan County EMA
(first floor of Morgan County Courthouse)
302 Lee Street NE
Decatur, AL

Priceville Town Hall (Basement)
Priceville, AL

Punkin Center Volunteer Fire Department
116 Kirby Bridge Road
Danville, AL
Holds 98 people

Trinity Town Hall
35 Preston Drive (near the corner of Preston Drive and Seneca Drive)
Trinity, AL 35673
Holds 98 people

Community Storm Shelters

How to Survive a Tornado (NOAA recommendations)

There is no such thing as guaranteed safety inside a tornado. Freak accidents happen; and the most violent tornadoes can level and blow away almost any house and its occupants. Extremely violent EF5 tornadoes are very rare, though. Most tornadoes are actually much weaker and can be survived using these safety ideas…

Prevention and practice before the storm: At home, have a family tornado plan in place, based on the kind of dwelling you live in and the safety tips below. Know where you can take shelter in a matter of seconds, and practice a family tornado drill at least once a year. Have a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster. Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; so store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds’ notice. When a tornado watch is issued, think about the drill and check to make sure all your safety supplies are handy. Turn on local TV, radio or NOAA Weather Radio and stay alert for warnings. Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure; the tornado will blast open the windows for you! If you shop frequently at certain stores, learn where there are bathrooms, storage rooms or other interior shelter areas away from windows, and the shortest ways to get there. All administrators of schools, shopping centers, nursing homes, hospitals, sports arenas, stadiums, mobile home communities and offices should have a tornado safety plan in place, with easy-to-read signs posted to direct everyone to a safe, close by shelter area. Schools and office building managers should regularly run well-coordinated drills. If you are planning to build a house, especially east of the Rockies, consider an underground tornado shelter or an interior “safe room”.

Know the signs of a tornado: Weather forecasting science is not perfect and some tornadoes do occur without a tornado warning. There is no substitute for staying alert to the sky. Besides an obviously visible tornado, here are some things to look and listen for:

Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base — tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
Day or night – Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder.
Night – Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
Night – Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning — especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.
WHAT TO DO…

In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. Head protection, such as a helmet, can offer some protection also.

In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.

In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper:Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building — away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.

In a mobile home:Get out! Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building. Go to one of those shelters, or to a nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. This mobile-home safety video from the State of Missouri may be useful in developing your plan.

At school:Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or windowless room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible — out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway,leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.

In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

AFTER THE TORNADO…

Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Carefully render aid to those who are injured. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.