Mildly destructive at best, tornadoes can turn deadly in the blink of an eye. The high winds from twisters can turn any object into a deadly missile, overturn cars and flatten homes. Storm shelters have proven to be the most effective way of staying safe from tornadoes, but what are the details about storm shelters? Is it worth having one in your home?
Here are a few of the most common questions about storm shelters and the answers you should know.
Tornado shelters have proven to save countless lives. In the instance of an EF5 tornado, a shelter is the only documented place to ensure complete safety.
Related: Prepping your Home for Storm Season
Approved storm shelters that meet FEMA standards and are tested by the National Wind institute are guaranteed to protect you from any debris or tornado damage up to 250 mph winds. The devastating EF5 tornado that ravaged Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th, 2013 had winds topping out at 210 miles per hour.
The value a storm shelter adds to your home can vary in different housing markets. If your home is in ‘tornado alley’, then the addition of a storm shelter is a definite plus and can add up to $2,000 to the value of your home. The most value comes from the ‘perceived’ value it provides. If a buyer is choosing between your home and another one, your home will have the distinct advantage because of the storm shelter. After all, safety is extremely important in tornado prone areas.
Also, in most instances, an appraiser will give additional credit for a shelter.
Although prices differ depending on what shelter professionals you work with, they usually range between $3,000 and $9,000. For an example, here are our prices listed:
Additional costs can include concrete stamping and staining for decorative purposes, or taller ceilings.
The average installation time for both below and above ground shelters is about 3 to 4 hours.
Any above or below ground FEMA approved shelters that are tested, will give you the highest chance of surviving an EF5 tornado. Concrete can hold water and eventually leak, fiberglass is used only below ground and are not as strong as other shelters, as well as being susceptible to cracking. Steel is often the best and most long-lasting choice for a shelter.
Old and outdated shelters that are not up to current FEMA code can potentially have issues with the integrity of the product. Do-It-Yourself shelters can also be dangerous if not installed correctly.
For those home improvement experts, the price of a do it yourself storm shelter will still run a minimum of $3,000. You will need to buy certain supplies and rent equipment, including digging equipment, in order to put a DIY shelter together. There is also no way to know if DIY shelters can withstand a high impact tornado, since it has not been tested to do so.
Related: Tornado Myths That Could Kill You
All storm shelters are safe against EF5 tornadoes with up to 250 mph winds, if they have been tested at the Debris Impact Facility at the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. No one has been killed by debris in an approved storm shelter.
More information on what these shelters can protect against and how they test them can be found on the NWI website: Click Here
There is only one instance of a woman in Oklahoma drowning in her shelter after unprecedented rainfall. This record rainfall reported 8 inches of rain in only a 24-hour period, causing the city to issue its first-ever flash flood emergency bulletin. It is also not known the age or structure of her shelter.
Tyler, our resident storm shelter expert said this on safety precautions to avoid this happening.
“There are safety measures in the in-garage units. You can un-bolt the back portion of the door. However, our advice for all shelters is, if it's blocked and you’re safe, then wait for help. You never know what's blocking it and forcing the door open could cause materials, or debris to come in the shelter and hurt you. Immediately after a tornado, emergency crews go door to door looking for people trapped in shelters. That's why it's important to add a whistle to your storm shelter kit.”
It is imperative to register your storm shelter, so emergency responders can reach you as quickly as possible. Depending on the severity of the tornado and extent of damage caused, it may take up to a couple of days for emergency services to get to you, which is why FEMA says to stock your shelter with necessary supplies for up to three days.
To register your storm shelter in these cities, just follow these links:
The Oklahoma program Soonersafe for a storm shelter. The money comes from the federal governments unused FEMA funds, and only takes so many applications a year. Soonersafe uses the lottery system and will pick from applicants at random.
In the past, Red Cross and FEMA have had rebate programs for areas recently affected by large tornadoes, but those are not in place at the moment.
Having a pre-made emergency kit is critical in times of severe weather. These emergency kits need to be kept well-stocked, updated and easily accessible - but preferably kept in your storm shelter. Depending on how many items you put in your kit, the essentials can be put together for a small cost, and any size kit is worth having.
The Department of Homeland Security has a list of what any emergency kit for a natural disaster should hold. This list, as well as additional information can be found at here at ready.gov
When putting together your emergency disaster kit, think of specific items you may need for you or your family members. Children, seniors and pets may need additional items. Necessary medications should be kept in an easily accessible place to grab quickly in the event of a tornado.
After a tornado strikes, it could take hours or days for first responders to reach you, so ensure that you have enough supplies. The Department of Homeland Security states that your kit needs to have enough water, food and supplies for each person for at least 3 days.
The following items are listed as additional items that may be necessary
Another important tip is to keep important documents in a safe place, either electronically or in a waterproof portable container. Identification, birth and marriage certificates, wills, bank account records, household inventory with pictures, insurance policies and possibly videos of valuable items should be kept safe from tornadoes as well.
Related: Pets and Storms – 3 Important Tips to Keep Your Animals Safe
The ASPCA (the American Society to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) also gives a guide of what items to include in an emergency kit for your pet, which needs to be prepared alongside yours. These items include;
Permits are required for storm shelters in most counties, and the cost is usually around the $50 - $75 range. Here are the permit prices for Oklahoma City:
The steps to acquire a permit varies in each city, but here are the steps to obtain a storm shelter permit in Oklahoma City, as seen on the Oklahoma City development services site.
The following information is needed to get a permit.
**Contact your contractor for these documents.
Bring required documents to our office.
Once you have paid for your permit and the shelter has been installed and inspected, you may register it with the City online or by calling the Action Center at (405) 297-2535. You may also request that your shelter be automatically registered on the building permit application in the remarks section of the form.
With the obvious benefits of tornado shelters, you might ask why more homes don’t have shelters already in place.
The New York Times has a great article concerning this issue: Click Here
National Public Radio also did an informative segment: Click Here
Isn’t it time you had a storm shelter installed in your home?