Answers to Some Basic Questions about Storm Shelters
May 21, 2020
If you’re considering buying a storm shelter to protect your family, the employees at your small business, or the members of your community, you probably have a lot of questions. Here at Survive-a-Storm, we’ve got answers!
And you can definitely trust Survive-a-Storm to give you dependable answers. After all, multiple Fortune 500 companies including Walmart and 3M, as well as the DoD, have all turned to Survive-a-Storm to protect their employees and service members.
Here are some answers to a number of general questions about severe weather and tornado shelters.
What is my risk for extreme winds and other severe weather?
As we have noted before, tornadoes have struck all 50 U.S. states.
That said, of course, some regions of the country are more prone to severe weather than others. The proven historical danger to the place where you reside should greatly inform your decision to invest in a storm shelter.
Two of the country’s most vulnerable areas are known as Dixie Alley (covering much of the Southeastern U.S.), and Tornado Alley (which coincides roughly with the Great Plains Region). This vulnerability is based on FEMA’s wind zone assessment.
What are wind zones?
FEMA’s Wind Zone Map divides the United States into different geographic zones according to the strength and frequency of the windstorms that each area has traditionally endured. This categorization is based on more than 150 years of tracking hurricanes and 60 years of tracking tornadoes that have struck each area.
Individuals, communities, and businesses in Zones III and IV are considered to be at high risk for damage from extreme winds. FEMA has declared that a safe room or storm shelter is the best method for protecting life in these zones.
Which states are in the zones most at risk for extreme winds?
Zone IV (the most vulnerable zone) includes the entirety of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas, as well as the majority of Oklahoma, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Significant portions of Alabama, Texas, Wisconsin, and Michigan also fall into Zone IV, as do parts of Louisiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
Much of the rest of the area east of the Mississippi River falls into Zone III, excluding New England and some parts of the mid-Atlantic states. Zone III extends westward nearly to the Rocky Mountains.
In addition, FEMA designates the entire Gulf Coast and the whole Atlantic Coast of the U.S. as a “Hurricane-prone Region.” These coastal areas are also considered high-risk. FEMA advocates the use of storm shelters for residents there on this basis.
What else should I consider before I decide whether or not to buy my own storm shelter?
If you do live in a zone that is prone to extreme wind events but you’re still on the fence about getting your own storm shelter, you may want to ask yourself a few questions.
For instance, if the National Weather Service announced a Tornado Warning for your county, where would you go to take refuge?
If you don’t have your own residential storm shelter, is there a community storm shelter in your area? Do you know how to get there? Are you sure that you’ll have access to it?
What is the level of risk you’re willing to tolerate? And is it really worth it to play fast and loose in the face of such danger?
What’s the difference between a residential shelter and a community shelter (other than the obvious)?
The main difference between a residential storm shelter and a community shelter is that the former will normally be found in private homes while the latter will be used by businesses and communities such as mobile home parks.
From a more technical standpoint, FEMA defines a community safe room as one that will protect more than 16 people. Any shelter whose occupancy is 16 or lower is considered a residential shelter.
FEMA and ICC guidelines dictate that each tornado shelter occupant have three square feet of space. This is how Survive-a-Storm determines occupancy numbers for our shelters.
I’ve seen strong storms before. Couldn’t I just ride the storm out somehow with what I’ve got?
Are you willing to chance it? And where will you ride the storm out, exactly?
Mobile homes are definitely not sturdy enough to withstand the winds that most tornadoes bring with them. Quite simply, they will never provide adequate protection when severe weather hits.
Similarly, a vehicle is not a safe place to be either. Don’t think that you can outrun a tornado in a vehicle. Tornadoes are both fast-moving and unpredictable. It’s not worth the risk.
When it comes to protecting yourself from a tornado, you need to find a solid structure. The sturdier the building, the better.
Unfortunately, tornadoes have been known to demolish entire homes in just four seconds. This is something that even relatively “weak” tornadoes in the EF2-EF3 range (with winds not exceeding 165 mph) can do.
The interior rooms of your home will be safer than those with windows, and basements will also provide a bit of extra protection from winds and flying debris. Of course, even basements do not guarantee safety, and many homes in tornado-prone areas are not built with basements anyway.
Are tornado shelters really that much safer?
In a word, yes.
Your best protection when faced with severe weather is a dedicated storm shelter. Period. Full stop.
But if I do invest in my own residential tornado shelter, how will I know it’s actually going to give me the protection it promises?
Your tornado shelter will protect you even in the face of the strongest tornadoes…if it was made by Survive-a-Storm!
These aren’t just words. We have the evidence to back it up.
Survive-a-Storm is a member of the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA). All members of the NSSA must submit the shelters they manufacture to a rigorous peer review conducted by other engineers. This includes having our storm shelters undergo demanding tests at the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University.
No tornado shelter made by any member of the NSSA has ever failed. This means that no shelter produced by Survive-a-Storm has ever failed. Again, no shelter manufactured by Survive-a-Storm has ever failed, even when enduring an EF5-level tornado event, one in which the tornado's winds exceed 200 mph.
How can I learn more about Survive-a-Storm’s tornado shelters?
Check out Survive-a-Storm’s extended FAQ page to learn even more. Then reach out to us to find out how you can protect your loved ones from the hazards of severe weather. Whether it's above ground storm shelters or a garage storm shelter, you can count on Survive-a-Storm.