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Storm Shelters for Sale – Storm Shelters Huntsville AL

Storm Shelters for Sale - Storm Shelters Huntsville AL

Storm Shelters for Sale - Storm Shelters Huntsville AL

Huntsville, Alabama is #1 in the nation but it's not an honor that is desired or appreciated. And one that suggests storm shelters Huntsville Al would be a wise investment for homeowners in the region, and that many might be searching for storm shelters for sale from Safe-T-Shelter with the recent designation.

The Huntsville / Madison County area has been rated No. 1 in a weather.com ranking of the top tornado cities in the country. Birmingham, AL is listed as No. 3 on the list and Tuscaloosa, AL No. 4. The list was created by Dr. Greg Forbes, a top tornado expert for The Weather Channel. The weather.com report also highlights an interesting shift in the nation's most tornado-prone areas. While the plains states of Kansas and Oklahoma are considered by most to be tornado alley, the top four cities are all in the Deep South - with Jackson, Miss., sliding in at No. 2 among the four Alabama cities. Other Deep South cities on the list include Atlanta at No. 8 and Nashville at No. 10.

The story explains in great detail that, "Huntsville lies in the Tennessee Valley, surrounded by the hills of the Cumberland Plateau. It also lies within Dixie Alley, an area which is prone to violent, long-track tornadoes."Describing Birmingham, the website stated, "Images from Birmingham and Tuscaloosa in 2011 are burned into the public's memory. A massive EF-4 multi-vortex tornado ripped across the region. Dozens of cameras captured the monster twister as it ripped through both cities."According to the research, tornadoes have tracked 1,520 miles across Madison County (Huntsville AL) since 1962 - a measure qualified, to include a 75-mile radius around Huntsville, Alabama, which would stretch into surrounding counties.It highlights the nine 2011 tornadoes that touched down in Madison County and killed nine people as well as the 1989 tornado that obliterated Airport Road and killed 21 people.

That being said, tornado season is here, and that means that much of the country is at risk of severe weather for many months to come. The Spring is when most people become aware of the threat of tornadoes and with that comes increased interest in tornado storm shelters and tornado safe rooms. With a severe weather outbreak often on the horizon, below is a list of "Tips" to remember when a tornado watch or warning is in effect for your community.

Before diving into the list, Safe-T-Shelter specializes in steel safe rooms, and while we once designed, created, and installed underground storm shelters, we no longer advise clients to make investments in underground storm shelters, due to the technology advancements that now make our above ground steel storm shelters more safe and with additional benefits of ease of accessibility, cost, and installation.

A tornado safe room is 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. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.To be considered a FEMA safe room, the structure must be designed and constructed to the guidelines specified in FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business and FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms.

Tornado Shelters and Storm Shelters

Now for your 7 Tips to Survive a Tornado1. Determine a safe place to ride out the storm, preferably in advance. And a steel above ground storm shelter is your best option.

1) Do you live in a mobile home? Get out. Driving in a car? Get home as quickly as you can, and if that's not possible, get to a sturdy building as quickly and safely as possible.

2) Get away from windows and if you don't have a steel safe room, get underground if possible.Regardless of where you're taking shelter, it should be as far away from windows as possible. Even if a tornado doesn't hit, wind or hail could shatter windows, and if you're nearby, you could get hurt.If you do not have a basement move to the innermost room or hallway on the lowest floor of your home. The goal is to put as many walls between yourself and the outside world. When homes are destroyed by tornadoes, often, the outer walls have been demolished, but a few inner rooms are somewhat intact.

3) If a tornado appears while you're on the road ...You should make every effort to find a safe building for shelter. If you can't find one, NEVER stop under an overpass. Instead, find a ditch, get down and cover your head. Get as far from your vehicle as you can to prevent the possibility of it being moved and dropped on you.

4) Put on your shoes – and a bike, helmet (bike, motorcycle, etc.)If you're at home and severe weather is hitting your home, prepare for the worst. If your house is damaged by a tornado, you could end up walking through debris that's riddled with nails, glass shards and splintered wood. The best way to ensure your shoes aren't scattered is to put on a pair before the storm comes.If you own a bike helmet, be sure to put it on during a severe storm. It could save you from life-threatening head trauma if your home suffers a direct hit.

Storm Shelters for Sale - Storm Shelters Huntsville AL

5) Keep your pets on a leash or in a carrier, and bring them with you. They're family too, so make sure they go to a safe place with you. Make sure their collar is on for identification purposes, and keep them leashed if they're not in a crate. If your home is damaged by a tornado, it might not be familiar to them anymore, and they might wander.

6) Don't leave your home and try to drive away from a tornadoIf you made it home, stay there. Tornadoes can shift their path, and even if you think you're directly in the line of the storm, being inside shelter is safer than being inside a car. Traffic could keep you from getting out of the storm's path, or the tornado could change directions quickly.

7) Understand the severe weather terms

Severe thunderstorm watch: Conditions are conducive to the development of severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area. These storms produce hail of ¾ inch in diameter and/or wind gusts of at least 58 mph.

Severe thunderstorm warning: Issued when a severe thunderstorm has been observed by spotters or indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. These warnings usually last for a period of 30 to 60 minutes.

Tornado watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes in and around the watch area. People in the affected areas are encouraged to be vigilant in preparation for severe weather.

Tornado warning: Spotters have sighted a tornado or one has been indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. When a tornado warning has been issued, people in the affected area are strongly encouraged to take cover immediately.

Tornado Warning Huntsville Alabama

The two basic types of storm shelters are underground storm shelters or above ground storm shelters.

No one has ever been killed in an above ground storm shelter or safe room or underground storm shelter that has been proven to be compliant with the guidelines set by FEMA.

Determining what type of tornado shelter is best for you is primarily based on personal preference. In order to help you find the storm shelter that meets your specific needs here are some helpful tips:

Best steel storm shelter for accessibility: Above ground safe rooms are the most optimal for accessibility. There are no steps to navigate therefore safe rooms can be easily accessed by those with mobility issues. Above ground steel Safe rooms with wheelchair accessible doors are readily available. They are perfect for those who are handicapped and for the elderly. If you are considering a long term solution, you may want to consider an above ground steel storm shelter or above ground steel safe room. As you age, or if something were to happen to hinder your mobility, you could always access your safe room easily.

Best storm shelter for convenience: Any shelter that can be installed inside your home is going to be ideal for convenience. If you are building a new home, any room in your home can be reinforced and used as a safe room. Pre-manufactured steel safe rooms / pre-manufactured steel storm shelters or prefab steel storm shelters / prefab steel safe rooms can be installed in the garage. If you are not able to have a tornado shelter installed inside your home then an outdoor shelter installed as close to the home as possible is the best solution. Convenience is key when you have to seek shelter immediately, and navigated pounding hail, rain, and/or debris is something you might have to deal with when running to your outdoor steel storm shelter.

Garage Storm Shelter Best storm shelter for longevity: Above ground steel storm shelters or above ground steel safe rooms take the cake when it comes to longevity. Over time concrete will become brittle. As the ground settles the concrete will also crack which will result in leaks. Fiberglass shelters are prone to fiberglass rot over an extended period of time. Steel is strong and extremely durable. Rust is eliminated if the shelter is painted properly and all surfaces exposed to the soil or water are coated with an epoxy.

If you are looking for a shelter that will last a lifetime, then a steel storm shelter from Safe-T-Shelter is your best option.

Best storm shelter for safety: As mentioned earlier in this article, “There’s no one authority to tell you what the best storm shelter is, nor can the federal government endorse a specific type of storm shelter as being ‘the best.’ To assess a shelters safety you want to make sure the shelter meets all of the standards set forth by FEMA as published in the FEMA P-320 document. Every storm shelter manufacturer designs their shelter differently and constructs the shelter of different materials. Each shelter should be assessed separately to ensure safety. For instance, all steel shelters are not equally safe. There are steel shelters that are manufactured with varying degrees of metal thickness, different door designs with varying locking mechanisms and hinges, and different ventilation systems. Each component should be assessed to ensure the shelter is constructed according to the guidelines set by FEMA. It is also important to note that there is no governing agency which regulates to the storm shelter industry. The standards set by FEMA are considered to be “guidelines” and are therefore voluntary for manufactures to follow. The consumer is ultimately responsible for ensuring the shelter they purchase is safe. Most people do not realize the storm shelter industry is unregulated and tend to take most manufactures at the their word when they claim they are “FEMA approved”. FEMA does not “approve” any shelters. They only set “guidelines”. The main components of a shelter that should be examined are the thickness of the material used to construct the body of the shelter, the door components, how the shelter is secured, and the ventilation system. These recommendations come from decades of protecting communities, businesses, and homeowners. Safe-T-Shelter has proven longevity in the industry, tests every shelter, and builds storm shelters and safe rooms to the top standards with the best materials and the best technology. Not to mention at extremely affordable pricing with financing available. If you are in search of Storm Shelters for Sale or Storm Shelters Huntsville AL, Safe-T-Shelter should be your first call at: 1-800-462-3648.

Storm Shelters for Sale - Storm Shelters Huntsville AL
Above Ground Steel Storm Shelter Manufacturer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storm Tested Shelter in an EF5 Tornado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can survive a tornado!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.