They’re getting a lot of buzz, and after this spring’s tornadoes, it’s no wonder. Safe rooms are the latest must-haves in housing, and for good reason. When built to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) standards, the agency says they offer “near-absolute protection” against the high winds of a tornado.
Safe place for a safe room
Basements may be the best place to seek shelter if you don’t have a safe room, but if you’re going to install one, choose the location that best suits you. Above-ground safe rooms offer the same level of protection as those below ground, according to FEMA. In some cases, a pre-existing closet or bathroom can be properly fortified to double as a safe room. Another option is the prefabricated safe room—essentially a steel box—which can be ordered, delivered, and in less than an hour, bolted into place. These are particularly popular for people who can’t easily get down their basement steps, such as the elderly or disabled.
Not all safe rooms are built equal
If you’re thinking of buying a home with a safe room, make sure it meets FEMA standards. A concrete bunker, for instance, won’t do you much good if the door is not properly reinforced or the locks are weak. The new national standards were established based on research from Texas Tech’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center, which determined that shelters should withstand winds up to 250 mph and projectiles traveling at 100 mph. Traditional storm cellars and even some products marketed as “safe rooms” may not be resilient enough for such extreme wind.
If you’re considering a safe room for your house, call us for more information and referrals.