Building a Safe Room or Storm Shelter

by Rachel Laurendeau on May 21, 2013

basement finishing MissouriAfter the violent and catastrophic tornado and storms in Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest his week, we felt it would be important to take a moment to pause in honor of everyone who has been affected.

We also felt it was important to take this time to share some of the emergency preparedness information that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) provides on its website. Not only does the site tell you what you need to do before, during and after an emergency, they also provide details to help you prepare a plan and to put together a disaster supplies kit.

One of FEMA’s recommendations is to build a safe room, wind shelter or storm shelter in your home where you and your family can seek shelter in case of emergency. A safe room can be built in your basement, in an interior room on the main floor of the house or on a garage floor or concrete slab-on-grade foundation.

“Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room also can provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms.” You can talk to a basement waterproofing specialist if you are uncertain of your basement’s ability to keep water out during a major storm.

“To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:
• The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
• The walls, ceiling and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
• The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
• Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.”

Being prepared and taking precautions is the best way to stay safe during unpredictable weather events. Always have an emergency kit on hand and follow the above tips to help protect your home and your family. For help building a secure safe room or storm shelter, talk to a local home improvement expert or basement finishing contractor who is experienced in building these types of rooms.

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Related articles: Emergency Kit, Ice Storm Safety, Storm Shelters

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