Storm Shelters:
Tips on Selecting a Shelter

Storm shelters are a great way to protect your family from natural disasters. There are several types of shelters available that offer various designs to accommodate different needs.

In the past, it has been widely believed that you should seek shelter from a tornado in a basement. This is NOT a good idea.

In many instances, when a house is destroyed, a lot of debris will fall into the basement. The falling debris is very likely to hurt or even kill a person it hits.

In extreme weather-prone areas, local building codes will require the construction of a storm room. This room will have no windows and extra bracing in the walls to provide extra strength in the event of a tornado or hurricane. These codes are relatively recent and did not exist when many homes were built.

These safe rooms provide some added protection, but are not the best solution for real safety in the event of a catastrophic wind event.

The Best Protection for Storm Shelters

The best protection for these types of situations is the use of a below-ground shelter. These shelters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all offer a greater level of protection than safe rooms or basements.

The most common shelters are underground bunkers that are made out of steel or cement. They are usually secured with a heavy locking door that lays flat to prevent the wind from getting under it and opening it.

There is usually a basic air venting system that allows for ample air exchange with the surface to prevent any problems with mold or breathing.

The shelters can be stocked with basics such as water and canned goods to make sure you will have a few days of supplies to get you through until power is restored or you can safely leave the area.

Consider ICF

We're huge fans of insulating concrete forms (ICF). These first became popular for use in basements, but are now widely used to construct entire homes.

Using ICF in a shelter is smart for several reasons: First, studies have shown that these solid concrete walls can withstand wood stud “missiles” fired under tornado conditions.

Second, it is very fire resistant, with four times the fire resistance of wood. Concrete walls can withstand up to 4 hours of fire. Of course, fire isn't always part of severe weather, but it gives you added peace of mind if it is a concern.

Learn more about using ICF in construction.

Learn about building your own shelter.

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