Frequently Asked Questions
How does an above ground Safe Room compare to a below ground storm shelter in regards to tornado safety?
Larry Tanner, research associate at the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University, says most importantly your safe room must be designed and built to FEMA guidelines. "They're all safe if they are tested products," said Tanner. The good news: No one has ever been killed in an approved safe room whether above or below ground.
However, in a below ground safe room you face the risk of debris blocking the exit, or flooding. With underground storm shelters, the doors always swing outward which can be blocked by fallen trees or other debris. With Storm Safe Rooms, the doors are tested to the same standards but swing inward to always allow you to get out. It is also much easier to have a wheelchair accessible safe room than a wheelchair accessible underground shelter.
Expert forensic engineering examination of above-ground shelter and safe room performance during the 2011 Tuscaloosa and Joplin outbreaks as well as the May 20, 2013 Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes documented that properly constructed shelters and safe rooms consistently survive super tornadoes. "In my 15 years of doing storm damage research and storm shelter research, we have never documented any deaths or injuries in above ground tested safe-rooms or failures of tested safe-rooms. This includes the storms of Joplin 2011 and Moore 2013," says Tanner.
What size storm shelter do I need?
FEMA P-320 (pg. 19 & 20) states that it depends on the type of storm you're trying to get protected from and how many people you're trying to protect as well as the condition of the people who are needing protection (example: being able to stand up versus being paralyzed in a wheelchair or bed-ridden) are factors to consider. Most of our customers are simply trying to protect small families of 16 or less from a tornado. Tornadoes, unlike hurricanes, tend to pass by very quickly meaning you'll only be using it for about 15-30 minutes. This makes the standards take number of people over comfort. The standard for these folks is 3 square feet (sqft) per person taking shelter.
Our 4'x6' for example would be considered an 8-Person safe room by this standard meaning that 8 average-sized adults can stand shoulder-to-shoulder. If this is a commercial unit being used for a company or a hurricane shelter, then the needed square feet per person changes. A commercial unit's standard is 5 sqft per person, so the same 4'x6' becomes a 4-5 Person safe room. A safe room for a hurricane has a higher sqft requirement than even a commercial one at 7 sqft per person, so a 4'x6' now becomes a 3-Person safe room.
If you are still uncertain of the size safe room that you need, then please give one of us a call and we'll gladly help you figure it out.
How long does it take to get a shelter?
Lead time depends on whether we have a product already in-stock or if we need to do custom orders as well as how far away you are. We can usually install your safe room within a few days, if you're local. If you're farther away in the state or even out of the state, we guarantee 30 day delivery & install unless it's a custom order which in that case can possibly take 45-60 days.
How long does it take to install a shelter?
Smaller garage installs usually take about 2-3 hours at the most to install. Larger garage installs or on-site assemblies can take 4-6 hours to complete.
What can I do, if I live in a mobile home, but can't get an underground storm shelter?
You just need a FEMA & ICC-compliant piered concrete slab for anchoring your safe room in order to be protected from the storms. We can make the slab for you or provide instructions / specifications to you or your contractor. All you need to do is provide us with the size you want or how many people you're trying to protect and we can provide you with a no-obligation quote.
Do you offer financing?
We do not offer financing, but many banks around the country finance storm shelter loans for under 2% interest rate (APR) or we can refer you to one if you don't already have one in mind. Just give us a call and we will be glad to explain what options our other customers have told us worked best for them.
Do I need a building permit to install a shelter?
Some cities and towns require a building permit. Contact your local Building Inspection or Code Enforcement department to find out. Storm shelters not installed inside your home are typically treated as an accessory building for permitting purposes. Cities vary in their permitting requirements.
How easy is it to get a building permit?
City building inspection departments are accommodating and will walk you through the process. Getting a permit involves completing a simple building permit application, providing two copies of your property plot plan (or survey) with the shelter location designated on the drawing and engineering drawings of the shelter (which we will provide to the city). Some cities require the contractor to obtain the permit. We will work to make your experience as pleasant as possible.
Who should I call to locate below ground utilities?
If you are pouring a new slab for your storm shelter, it is extremely important to identify what may be underground beneath the location you have chosen.
Most states provide a one call phone number for requesting location identification for buried gas, electricity and telephone cables. This is a free service and is usually complete in two business days. Call your local city government to locate water and sewer lines.
Will a cell phone work inside the shelter?
Can I have a contractor of my choosing install my shelter?
Yes, we will gladly discuss the installation procedures with your contractor and provide written installation instructions for your contractor's reference.
Are Storm Safe Rooms endorsed by FEMA?
FEMA does not endorse shelters of any kind. Storm Safe Rooms exceed FEMA requirements and have been tested by the Texas Tech National Wind Institute to withstand an EF-5 rated tornado.
Are you EF5 tornado rated?
Yes. All shelters should be tested to resist an EF5 tornado. If any other company tells you something different, that means they obtained a cheaper test or no test at all because the Texas Tech National Wind Institute only tests for EF5 rating by shooting a 2'x4' cannon at the weakest parts of the safe room or shelter.
Will a storm shelter add to the value of my home?
We believe so. A storm shelter is to benefit you while you live in your home. It may make selling your home easier. Make sure your safe room has been tested by the Texas Tech National Wind Institute and have a certificate letter. Many realtors have told us that you cannot list your home as having a storm shelter without this letter.
Can I take my shelter with me if I move?
Yes. We do offer a moving service or we can tell you what needs to be done in order for you or a local contractor to move and install it on your own.
What about lightning and metal shelters?
In 21 years, we have never had a customer who has been electrocuted by lightening, but if lightening is a concern for you, we recommend speaking with a local electrician about grounding options. We are unable to give advice to this specific topic because different places have different electrical codes, so consulting a local electrician is the best bet for taking the most cost-effective grounding measure possible to give you the peace of mind that you won't be shocked.
Concerns over safety in lightning storms for occupants of storm shelters have led to searches for applicable science or expert opinion. Little published information has been found that addresses directly the shelter safety issue. The advice of engineers and scientists with extensive research experience in lightning safety is reflected in this Standard. Some evidence has been provided by experts on the subject of metal structures indicating that metal enclosures shield the interior from the effects of outside sources of electricity. The public intuitively acknowledges this principle when driving automobiles during thunderstorms. The “metal box” represented by a conventional car or van yields a skin effect that becomes the conductor and protects the occupants. More in-depth understanding can be obtained from the Boston Museum of Science,
Dr. Michael F. Stringfellow, Chief Scientist, PowerCET Corporation, states, “Metal structures are selfprotecting and rarely a lightning hazard for the occupants. Even thin metal can safely conduct lightning currents without needing lightning rods or down conductors.”