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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.