Shandy Heil, Skinner, Patricia
The purpose of a safe room is to provide a space where you and your family can survive a tornado or hurricane with little or no injury. The safe room should not be used for protection when it is in a flood-prone area or can be flooded by hurricane storm surge. In fact, some communities discourage building safe rooms in hurricane storm surge areas because they give homeowners a false sense of protection, leading to a reluctance to evacuate.
A safe room is safe only when used wisely.
Your shelter should be readily accessible from all parts of your house, and it should be free of clutter. To protect the occupants during extreme windstorms, the shelter must be adequately anchored to the house foundation to resist overturning and uplift. The connections between all parts of the shelter must be strong enough to resist failure.
The walls, roof and door must resist penetration by windborne missiles. Extensive testing by Texas Tech University and other wind engineering research facilities has shown that walls, ceilings and doors commonly used in house construction cannot withstand the impact of missiles carried by extreme winds.
You can get complete information about the tornado safe room, plans and specifications, and national performance criteria for tornado shelters from the FEMA Web site, Safe Rooms: Taking Shelter from the Storm. (Note: This link opens a new browser window; close that window to return to this spot.)
In areas with little exposure to strong tornados but at risk of hurricanes or high wind storms, an in-home storm shelter can be built inexpensively to a lower standard than the FEMA guidelines while still providing greater protection (primarily from flying debris) than the rest of the house. The in-home shelter can double as a safe place for family valuables and an escape from intruders. Guidelines have been developed by the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center of Texas Tech University (www.wind.ttu.edu).
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