I live in Tornada alley (N Tx). Every year about this time I start thinking
about having a storm celler/safe room installed. Common sense tells me an
underground celler provides the best shelter, but they are inconvenient to
get into, especially at night. Also, if a really SAFE room is feasable, it
could be used for storing stuff normally put in the garage. Has anyone built
a safe room in an existing home? If so, do you need to bust up your slab and
sink a deeper concrete base or is there a way to sink enough rebar to anchor
the room even if the house goes to Oklahoma?
What wall/ceiling thickness is needed? Where can a door and hardware be
The safest thing is to go undergound... Other than objects being thrown
straight down on you, you're pretty safe at that point... Most people make
compromises though... Some take an existing large walk-in closet and line it
with CMUs and fill them with concrete... You also have to pour a concrete
roof and tie the CMUs into the foundation of the house... One company that I
saw comes to your house and cuts an opening in your garage underneath where
you park your car... It is about the size of an oil change pit and has a
steel hatchway / door on the top of it... Since you're below ground at that
point, you don't really need 8" of concrete for side protection, so they
probably are either mounting a steel or fiberglass rectangular tank in this
area... Depending upon the size of the vehicle that you park above it, it
might even be possible to enter and exit the area without moving your
vehicle... You vehicle and garage would also give you some protection from
other falling objects in that they might leave enough space with something
on top of them that you can still get out... Of course, you're more likely
to use the room if it is attached to your house and you can get into it
quickly... As in most things in life, this is full of compromises...
One thing to consider is egress. If the house falls in on top of your safe
room, that's one thing. If a house falls in on top of your car, which is on
top of the safe room, you'd better hope someone knows where to look for you,
'cause you won't be getting out on your own.
Keep your cell phone with you? As I said previously, there are compromises
to be made... If you put your safe room in the house and there is massive
damage, you might not be able to get out of it and you might have to wait a
long time before anyone finds you... With 2 of my 3 vehicles, I wouldn't
have a problem getting out of this sort of safe room since they have a bit
more ground clearance... With Graces Jeep Grand Cherokee, it would be a bit
more of a tight fit... Ultimately, you want something that you can get into
as quick as possible... This usually means something inside of your house...
Unfotunately, that's not really an option for some people... Having an
undergound room with a doorway from your house into it would be great, but
not as easy to build as a freestanding building... I saw an ad once for what
basically amounted to steel & concrete coffins that you entered during a
tornado... Big enough for an adult to lie down in... Since most tornados are
over fairly quickly, it probably wouldn't be too bad... If I remember
correctly, it was a side entry instead of a top entry like a true coffin...
I seem to remember that they made it with decorative panels so that it
wouldn't stand out too much in your house... A cushion on the top of it and
it could look like some sort of built-in seating along a window...
Of course, you could just dig yourself a couple of manholes in your yard...
A concrete culvert section to keep the ground from collapsing around you...
Maybe the rim could be raised a couple of inches so that rain doesn't fill
Personally, I have a small lake / water retention pond behind my house and
there is a large concrete culvert pipe approximately 4-5 ft in diameter that
empties into it... If I saw a tornado coming, I would run for it... The top
of it is perhaps 10 ft below the surrounding terrain and any thrown objects
would only have one direction that they could come from to get in the
Oh well... Life is full of compromises...
lets imagine a car on top of a shelter.
in a bad situation debris could hit vehicle and cause a fuel leak.
would you want to be in a enclosed space with gasoline leaking in and
no easy way to get out? fumes might overcome you...
someone menioned cellphones, in a emergency forget them.
the cell providers can and will by the push of a button prohibit all
but emergency workers calls. its programmed in the day you get your
phone. so the system doesnt overload and crash...
plus cell sites depoend on powerlines and if that fails battery backup.
battery power is only good for a hour at most sites.
on landbased phones backups are good for a week, by federal law.
ideally you have a shelter with 2 access points one indoors one
outdoors, and some minimal supplies, water, high calorie long life
food, like MREs meals ready to eat, and basic tools. flashlights,
battreries, radio batter powered.
alowc some extra space, your neighbors will want protection too
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