What is a storm shelter and do I need one where I live?

If your area is prone to extreme weather such as tornadoes or tropical storms such as cyclones or hurricanes, consider building a storm shelter on your property. Storm shelters can be retrofitted to the needs and space of your home to provide easy access, protect your valuables and serve as a safe haven in emergencies. Most importantly, it keeps you safe in times of inclement weather, such as high winds turning random debris into projectiles at speeds over 100 mph. If you live in a place with severe weather, such as: savannah, georgia, or Miami, Florida, then a storm shelter may be the right choice for you.

What is a storm shelter?

A storm shelter is a strong safety shelter built to withstand inclement weather and flying debris and beyond storm proof your house. Storm shelters can come in a variety of styles, including prefabricated, underground, or above-ground structures. Having a storm shelter near or on your property eliminates the risk of traveling to find a safe haven during a tornado or severe storm.

Consider the type and location of your shelter

If the risks include high winds and storm surges, a prefabricated canopy could fit. A prefabricated shelter can range in price from $5,000-$20,000 or more. These shelters resemble an above-ground shed but can weigh over 24,000 pounds.

If you live in a tornado area, a pre-built underground shelter is a good protective solution offered in the same price range and can be used as storage. However, keep in mind that such shelters are not suitable for hurricane areas as they can flood.

You can also build a storm shelter in your home. The simplest and cheapest storm shelter is built into your existing basement and screwed to the cement floor. You may also want to consider adding structural reinforcements to a storage room, closet, or laundry room so that the space can act as a shelter to protect you.

What does a storm shelter consist of?

A safe interior space or storm shelter has a tough outer layer, the sandwich skin, which is built on the walls and ceiling of the shelter. The sandwich skin has two layers of 3/4-inch plywood oriented with wood grains going in opposite directions. The plywood absorbs the impact of flying objects.

For the “safe side” (or inside) of the trap chamber, a layer of 14-gauge steel will prevent debris from further entering the chamber. The skin should be installed on the outside or inside or attached to the stiles as long as the steel plate faces inwards into the storm shelter.

Install a steel door for your entrance

Your indoor storm shelter also needs a steel door with three deadbolts located opposite heavy duty hinges. When installing, fasten steel and plywood sheathing with 3-inch tapping screws or 3-inch deck screws, pushing them through pilot holes spaced every 6 inches (15 cm) apart. Finally, nail all the doubled framing members together with 10d nails spaced every 6 inches on each side. Your room is now secured. For more information on building a storm shelter, Click here.

Making the right storm shelter takes time and good planning. However, installing one in your home can be a worthwhile investment for your own safety during a severe storm.

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