LaHouse features closet as storm shelter

Tobie Blanchard, Reichel, Claudette Hanks  |  5/25/2013 1:35:33 AM

News Release Distributed 05/24/13

BATON ROUGE, La. – After the devastating tornado in Oklahoma, people in Louisiana may be wondering how they can protect themselves from a storm’s winds. LaHouse, the LSU AgCenter’s showcase home and landscape resource center on the LSU campus, addresses storm safety issues, according to Claudette Reichel, extension housing specialist.

One feature of LaHouse is the closet in the master bedroom that can be used as a storm shelter.

“It is fortified to a higher level of wind and impact resistance than the rest of the house with readily available and affordable materials,” Reichel said.

Reichel said the LaHouse shelter does not meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency standard for a tornado safe room, meaning it is not engineered to withstand the strongest tornado. But it can serve as a safe place during a hurricane.

She said for tornado resistance you would have to follow FEMA guidelines available at www.ready.gov/tornadoes.

“But it is interesting to see that in Oklahoma and previously in Joplin, that along the outer edges of the tornado paths, you often find that the little interior closets and bathrooms were often left standing while the rest of the house was badly damaged and the roof gone,” Reichel said. “So, a small room that is fortified would have an even better chance.”

For a closet to work as a storm shelter, Reichel said it must have no windows and must be structurally isolated from the rest of the house. Shelter walls cannot be load-bearing, and the roof of the shelter cannot be the second floor.

The studs in the shelter at LaHouse are connected to the concrete slab foundation, and hurricane straps are on the tops and bottoms of each stud.

The shelter is sheathed with two layers of ¾-inch plywood. The plywood levels are staggered to offset seams.

The shelter also includes a commercial steel security pocket door with a heavy duty metal receiving frame and track. A cosmetic door can be added for daily use.

Reichel said before putting in a storm shelter, consider child safety features to prevent entrapment in the room.

“The door should have some kind of grip or handle from the outside to be able to open it,” Reichel said.

The door at LaHouse doesn’t lock but is secured by a pin. This pin would be kept out of the reach of children.

At LaHouse, an electric outlet, lighting and air supply is included in the shelter. Reichel also suggested including an alarm panel or panic button.

To learn more, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse.

Tobie Blanchard

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