January 20, 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Storm Shelters

If you live in an area affected by extreme weather, building a storm shelter can help protect your family during events like hurricanes or tornados. Deciding to install one is a major decision, but where do you start?

What is a Storm Shelter?

Storm shelters provide “near-absolute protection” from extreme wind events including hurricanes and tornados. “Near-absolute protection” means that the occupants of the safe room will have a high probability of being protected from serious injury during a storm strike.

Storm shelters shouldn’t be built in areas expected to be flooded during extreme weather conditions or storm surges. Several recent hurricanes have caused record flooding and these types of storm surges are extremely dangerous for storm shelters. The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises to check with local authorities, such as building officials or floodplain managers, to determine if your storm shelter location is in an area at risk of flash flooding. Local record floods are also another significant indicator that FEMA suggests using.

Storm Shelters Versus Safe Rooms

In-ground shelters, or storm cellars, are often thought to be the most safe and complete form of protection. These storm shelters are built underground to limit your exposure to deadly weather. These can be built either inside of a large enough space, such as a garage, or along the side of the house.

Above-ground shelters, also known as safe rooms, are just as effective as in-ground. Even if your home is destroyed, your safe room will most likely be unaffected. Safe rooms are easier to replace and change than storm shelters because storm shelters require excavation and construction.

Construction Requirements

In some locations, a permit is required to build a storm shelter or safe room. FEMA suggests families looking to build or purchase storm shelters contact their local building officials about building code requirements. Your State Hazard Mitigation Officer can advise you and your family on federal, state, and local design requirements and assist in finding information regarding financial assistance.

The most cost-effective way to design and construct a safe room or storm shelter is to include them in new building construction. The cost of retrofitting an existing building requires additional design and construction constraints, such as completely dismantling an existing portion of the property and replacing it with new construction. The simpler the safe room or storm shelter, the lower the cost. Safe rooms with higher walls or long-span roof assemblies will cost more. Not only will construction require more materials and manpower, but larger walls require higher capacity HVAC systems.

Now that you know a little bit more about storm shelters and how they can protect you and your family, we hope you feel more prepared for a major weather event. If you have questions regarding financial funding for home construction, contact us.

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