When it comes to the safety of you and your family, you should never leave anything up to chance. At FamilySAFE, we’re passionate about providing the best EF5-tested above ground and underground tornado shelters and safe rooms to our clients. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some common tornado and hurricane safe room FAQs. If you have any additional questions about safe rooms or you’re interested in building a storm shelter on your property, contact us today!

What Is A Safe Room?

A safe room can be defined as a hardened structure that is specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) criteria. According to FEMA, a safe room must provide “near-absolute protection” in extreme weather events, including tornados and hurricanes. The level of protection each safe room provides will depend on its specific design parameters, and all applicable federal, state, and local codes must be followed.

What Is The Difference Between A Small Community Safe Room & A Community Safe Room?
The difference between a small community safe room and a regular community safe room is the number of occupants that the space can hold. A small community safe room is intended to hold up to 16 people or fewer, where a normal community safe room can hold more.

If My House Has a Basement, Do I Need a Safe Room?

If you live in a home with a basement, you may want to invest in a safe room. Strong tornados have resulted in the loss of floor framing, the collapse of basement walls, and the death and injuries of people who take refuge in a basement during a natural disaster. While a basement may be the safest place to seek shelter in your home, it will not provide the same level of protection that a safe room would. A few questions to ask yourself include:

  • What is my risk of tornados and hurricanes?
  • Are there existing refuge options available if a natural disaster hits my location?
  • What level of safety am I most comfortable with?

If your home has a basement, this is an ideal location to install or a build a safe room (unless someone in your family is physically challenged or handicapped). The flood risk of your location can also help you determine if your basement is the appropriate space to build a safe room.

Do Local Jurisdictions Require Safe Rooms?

According to FEMA, local jurisdictions do not require safe rooms or storm shelters in residential homes. There are some communities that have offered incentives (like reduced property tax) for owners who want to build a safe room or storm shelter on their property. Some state and local governments have engaged in grant programs with the federal government to partially subsidize the construction of both residential and community safe rooms.

The 2015 and 2018 International Building Code® (IBC®) requires the construction of storm shelters to be included when K-12 schools and first responder facilities are built in areas where the storm shelter design wind speed for tornados is 250 mph. These particular storm shelters should be compliant with the 2014 edition of the International Code Council’s (ICC) Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (also known as the ICC 500).

Where Can I Learn More About Obtaining FEMA Funding To Build a Safe Room?

If you’re interested in learning more about constructing a safe room in your home, you can visit your State Hazard Mitigation Officer (SHMO) for project eligibility and financial assistance answers. Your SHMO will be able to provide you with information regarding your safe room eligibility as well as any applicable federal, state, and local design requirements.

Can I Install a Safe Room in an Existing Home?

Safe rooms may be installed during the initial construction of a home or retrofitted afterward. It’s important to note that building a safe room in an existing home normally costs about 20 percent more on average than building the same safe room in a new home that is under construction. The primary concern for safe room contractors in an existing home will be the home’s foundation. Unfortunately, a majority of slab-on-grade foundations in most homes are not an adequate option to construct safe room.

Where Should a Safe Room Be Located?

Whether you’re thinking about building a safe room near your home or close to your small business, there are a variety of possible locations to do so. You can construct a tornado safe room in your structure or outside of it, and there are above-ground, in-ground, and basement options. When determining where a safe room should go, the building owner must work with an architectural engineer to determine the best method of construction for their space.

Are Inspections Required?

Before you construct a safe room on your property, it’s critical that you obtain the proper building permits and inspections before getting started. The building owner should ensure that the safe room is being built in accordance with FEMA P-361 or FEMA P-320.

We hope that this article has cleared up any questions you have regarding tornado and hurricane safe rooms. At FamilySAFE, we’re proud to be a leading provider of certified in-home storm shelters and tornado safe rooms. As one of the most experienced steel shelter companies in the United States, we’re passionate about building high quality safe rooms. If you’re interested in learning more about our services or you’d like a free storm shelter quote, contact our experts today!