How to Build a Storm Shelter: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Build a Storm Shelter?

To build a storm shelter, follow these guidelines: anchor it to a proper foundation, create walls of reinforced concrete, use a certified safe room door, and consult a licensed engineer before starting the building process.

For size recommendations, allocate 3 square feet per person for tornadoes and 7-10 square feet for hurricanes.

You have the option to retrofit a closet or bathroom as a storm shelter or build a freestanding shelter outside or adjacent to your home.

Ideally, place the shelter within 150 feet of your home’s entrance for quick access.

Remember that the safe room door must be strong and resistant to debris impact and extreme wind pressure.

It should pass missile impact and static/cyclical pressure tests.

Additionally, consider visibility inside when shutting the door, consult an electrician for proper lighting (though don’t rely on electricity during storms), stock the shelter with emergency essentials, and include ventilation pipes for airflow in an airtight shelter.

Key Points:

  • Anchor storm shelter to proper foundation
  • Create walls of reinforced concrete
  • Use certified safe room door
  • Consult licensed engineer before building
  • Allocate 3 sq ft per person for tornadoes and 7-10 sq ft for hurricanes
  • Options include retrofitting a closet or bathroom, or building a freestanding shelter outside or adjacent to home
  • Place shelter within 150 feet of home’s entrance for quick access
  • Safe room door must be strong and resistant to debris impact and extreme wind pressure
  • Consider visibility inside when shutting the door
  • Consult electrician for proper lighting
  • Stock shelter with emergency essentials
  • Include ventilation pipes for airflow in airtight shelter

Did You Know?

1. Before the invention of reinforced concrete, some of the earliest storm shelters were made out of stacked limestone or brick, providing protection against tornadoes as early as the 19th century.

2. The first recorded storm shelter in the United States was built in the early 1930s by a rancher named Steve Anderson in Oklahoma, a state well-known for its frequent tornadoes.

3. In addition to providing shelter during storms, some storm shelters also double as panic rooms, equipped with communication devices and supplies to sustain occupants in case of emergencies such as home invasions or natural disasters.

4. NASA has built underground storm shelters for astronauts and ground crew at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to protect against devastating hurricanes that may occur during launch preparations.

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5. In 2012, a unique storm shelter called the “Safe House” was built in Poland. This modern, functional home seems like an ordinary suburban dwelling, but with the push of a button, it transforms into an impenetrable concrete fortress, complete with sliding walls, steel shutters, and a retractable drawbridge.

Guidelines For Building A Storm Shelter:

When constructing a storm shelter, anchor the shelter to a proper foundation to ensure stability and prevent it from being lifted or swept away during a storm. Additionally, the walls of the shelter should be made of reinforced concrete to withstand strong winds and impact from debris.

Another crucial aspect is the use of a certified safe room door. These doors are designed to be strong and resistant to debris impact and extreme wind pressure. To ensure the quality and durability of the door, it is recommended to consult a licensed engineer before starting the building process. Their expertise will help ensure that the shelter meets safety standards and is capable of providing adequate protection during a storm.

Size Recommendations For Storm Shelters:

The size of a storm shelter depends on the specific type of storm it is intended to protect against.

For tornadoes, it is recommended to allocate at least 3 square feet per person. This allows for enough space for individuals to seek shelter and remain protected.

In the case of hurricanes, which require more extensive protection, a larger area of 7-10 square feet per person is recommended.

These size recommendations ensure that occupants have enough room to comfortably wait out the storm while remaining safe.

  • Tornadoes: 3 square feet per person
  • Hurricanes: 7-10 square feet per person

Remember to prioritize safety and allocate enough space for everyone.

Retrofitting Options For Storm Shelters:

If constructing a new storm shelter is not feasible, retrofitting options offer an alternative solution. One option is to convert a closet or bathroom into a storm shelter by reinforcing the walls and adding a safe room door. This allows for easy accessibility and minimizes the intrusion on your living space. Another option is to build a freestanding shelter outside or adjacent to the home. While this may require additional construction, it provides a separate dedicated space for storm protection.

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Location Considerations For Storm Shelters:

Choosing the proper location for a storm shelter is crucial for quick and easy access during an emergency. Ideally, the shelter should be within 150 feet of the home’s entrance, minimizing the time required to reach safety. This proximity allows occupants to swiftly access the shelter when a storm warning is issued, reducing the risk of injury or delay. Moreover, consider the geographical features of the area to ensure the shelter is not vulnerable to flooding or other hazards.

  • Proper location is key for quick access during an emergency.
  • Shelter should be within 150 feet of the home’s entrance.
  • Proximity allows occupants to access the shelter swiftly.
  • Consider geographical features to avoid vulnerability to flooding or similar hazards.

Requirements For Safe Room Doors:

Safe room doors are crucial for providing effective storm shelter protection. Choosing a strong and debris-resistant door that can withstand extreme wind pressure is essential. These doors undergo rigorous missile impact and static/cyclical pressure tests to ensure their reliability during severe storms. To guarantee debris impact resistance, it is advisable to consult professionals who can verify that the entire assembly of the storm shelter, including the door hardware, has been tested.

Important Considerations For Storm Shelter Construction:

There are several additional considerations to keep in mind when building a storm shelter. Visibility inside the shelter is essential for safety, especially when shutting the door. This can be achieved by incorporating windows or surveillance technology. Moreover, it is essential to consult with an electrician for appropriately wiring lights. However, it is important not to rely solely on electricity during storms, as power outages are common. Stocking the storm shelter with emergency essentials such as flashlights and batteries is thus necessary. Additionally, it is vital to include ventilation pipes to ensure proper airflow in an airtight storm shelter, preventing suffocation or discomfort during extended periods of occupancy.

By following these guidelines, considering size recommendations, exploring retrofitting options, determining the ideal location, selecting the appropriate safe room door, and taking into account important construction considerations, you can build a reliable and effective storm shelter that provides optimal protection during severe weather events.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you build a safe shelter?

To construct a safe shelter, one could utilize natural resources at hand. One option is to dig a shallow hole and lean long branches or logs against one side to form a slanted roof. This design will provide protection from the wind, as long as the wall is thick enough and the roof is sturdy. Another method is to find a large boulder or rock formation and seek an opening or crevice to take refuge in. The nooks and crannies created by these natural formations can provide reliable shelter as they offer protection from the elements.

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How to build a concrete safe room?

Building a concrete safe room entails constructing a secure space using concrete blocks and reinforcing rods. The blocks should be reinforced with steel rods that extend into concrete footers embedded in the ground, providing structural strength. To further enhance the room’s durability, the open block cores can be filled with a mixture of concrete and gravel. Additionally, the safe room should be equipped with small metal vents to allow for proper ventilation, while a heavy steel door with multiple latches ensures strong entryway protection. Implementing these measures will create a reliable and resilient concrete safe room.

Can you survive an EF5 tornado?

Surviving an EF5 tornado requires careful preparation and having emergency supplies is crucial. With the scale of damage and potential delays in rescue efforts, being self-sufficient is vital. Stocking up on food, water, medicine, cooking tools, and clothing is a necessary precaution to ensure survival during the aftermath of such a destructive tornado. These supplies will provide the necessary sustenance and resources needed until rescue teams can reach affected areas, which can take several days. By having emergency stores, you increase your chances of enduring and overcoming the challenges brought about by an EF5 tornado.

How thick is a storm shelter?

Our storm shelters are designed to provide maximum durability and protection during severe weather events. With a minimum thickness of 3/16″ steel, our aboveground F5 Storm Shelters ensure reliable structural integrity. This sturdy construction, combined with a thorough painting or powder coating process, effectively prevents the onset of rust and enhances the longevity of the shelters. Rest assured that our safe rooms are built to withstand the forces of nature and keep occupants safe and secure.

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