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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.

Tornado Shelters and Storm Shelters

Tornado Safety Questions and Answers

Tornado Safety Questions and Answers

(beneath the video below)

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.

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.

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