How To Build a Tornado Shelter

Photo of shelter

The best way to protect your family during a storm is with a tornado shelter. It can be built in a basement, a room in the main house, in the garage, as an addition to the house, or as a stand-alone structure next to the home. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s safe room guidelines and plans are available to make sure that your shelter is as durable as it can be and follows all codes. A tornado shelter should be well thought out and planned. The better the shelter is made the more reliable it will be in a time of need. .

There are steps to follow to ensure that you complete a successful tornado shelter:

  1. Construction plans. Call FEMA and ask for FEMA publication 320. This is a free pamphlet with construction plans for a tornado shelter.
  2. Find your wind zone. Knowing your wind zone will help you to determine how strong your tornado shelter should be. You can find this zone on a map of wind zones for the Unites States and on the FEMA website.
  3. Choose the location. The most common are the garage, basement or interior room in your home. If a location is not available inside the home, a shelter can be made as an add-on to the home or separate structure all together.
  4. Decide on a budget. A tornado shelter can cost anywhere between $2,500 and $6,000; depending on foundation, size and location.
  5. Permits and inspections. There is a National Performance Criteria when building tornado shelters, so get permits and inspections before you begin building to make sure your plans meet the right criteria.
  6. Hire a builder if needed. If you do not have experience in building a tornado shelter, it is a good idea to hire a builder. With the shelter possibly saving a life, it needs to be built as strong and soundly as possibly.
  7. Purchase all supplies. Make a list of all the materials you will need for the tornado shelter and buy them before you begin building.
  8. Follow your plans and guidelines. Make sure to follow each step carefully and do not take any shortcuts for the safety and welfare of your family.

If you take the time to build a proper tornado shelter, it should last forever. All of the time planning and money spent is a wise investment if one day it can save a life.


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