In 2019, an estimated 42 people died from tornadoes in the United States. Tornadoes can cause massive damage and injuries. But tornadoes aren’t the only threat to your home and family. Natural disasters and theft are both on the rise, and they both can put the things you love most at risk.
Having a tornado safe room, built with concrete, can help protect your loved ones and your valuables. It is also a popular reason for residential customers to consider building a concrete house.
What is a Safe Room?
A safe room is a room that is intended to provide protection from natural and man made disasters.
There are many different reasons to build a safe room. The most common reason is to provide protection from tornadoes and hurricanes. Safe rooms can also provide protection from wildfires, earthquakes, and even nuclear attacks.
Safe rooms are typically built to withstand the force of a tornado or hurricane. They are able to withstand winds up to 200 mph and can protect you from flying debris and falling objects.
There are many advantages to building a safe room on your property, but the greatest advantage is peace of mind.
Even if you don’t live in a tornado-prone area, a shelter can protect you from:
- Strong wind and hail
- Manmade disasters
In addition to protecting your family, a concrete bunker type room is a great place to protect your valuables. If the space is large enough, your most important items and documents can be stored inside to safeguard them from harm.
The U.S. alone averages nearly 1,000 tornado events every year, which cause at least 80 deaths.
FEMA P-320 provides designs for safe rooms that you can use to construct a proper shelter for your property. In addition to the room itself, you’ll need to consider the door. It’s the most vulnerable part of the shelter, and it must be able to withstand high winds and debris impact.
Safe room doors must pass the FEMA ICC 500 test as well as their requirements. Some requirements include:
- Being able to withstand tornado pressure and impact
- Being easy to lock and unlock
If you’re considering a safe room for your property, you have quite a few options.
Residential Safe Room Options
There are a lot of different types of safe rooms. Some are concrete bunkers, while others are above ground shelters. An in-ground shelter is a safe room that is buried underground, while an above ground shelter is a safe room that is built on the surface.
An in-ground shelter is a safe room that is built underneath the ground. In-ground shelters are typically made from reinforced concrete or steel, although concrete is the more popular option.
In-ground shelters are typically buried at least three feet underground, and are usually between 8 and 16 feet wide. They may have their own air filtration systems and are able to be sealed off from the outside world. In-ground shelters are often built in basements or garages, but they can be built anywhere underground.
Above Ground Shelter
An above ground shelter is a safe room that is built on the surface. They are typically built with reinforced concrete or steel. These types of shelters are usually at least 8 feet wide and may be 15 feet tall.
Above ground shelters can be built in almost any location:
- In the yard away from the home
- Within structures, such as garages or barns
Indoor placement is preferred because there is always a risk of being struck by lightning or flying debris while walking to the shelter.
Above ground shelters can be made from a few types of materials, but the best above ground tornado shelter is made from concrete. Why? Because concrete can withstand the force of a tornado and can protect you from falling objects and flying debris.
Concrete Safe Room Options
In order to be more resistant to tornadoes and hurricanes, safe rooms – whether they’re above ground or below ground – are usually built with concrete.
There are many different ways to design concrete, but all types share similar characteristics.
- Concrete has a high compressive strength, which means that if you place a heavy object on top of it, it will not break.
- Concrete also has a high tensile strength. This means that it can withstand a lot of pressure when pulled apart.
- Concrete is very strong in shear. This means that if an object is placed on top of concrete, and then the object is pushed, the concrete will not break.
All of these characteristics work together to create the ideal tornado shelter. Nothing can get in and nothing can break it apart (well – most things).
ICF shelters are safe rooms that are made from interlocking blocks of concrete. They are typically 10 feet wide and can be between 8 and 16 feet tall, although you can find a variety of sizes.
To build this type of shelter:
- ICF blocks are stacked to create the exterior of the shelter.
- Concrete is poured into the core.
- A steel door is installed.
This creates an insulated structure that’s resistant to natural disasters, including wildfires.
There are many advantages to choosing ICF:
- They are recognized by all FEMA safe room guidelines.
- Quick to build and modular in nature.
- No framing or stripping required.
- Insulated and air-tight.
There are a few ICF manufacturers that specialize in ICF storm shelters, but two of the most reputable include:
Logix ICF Shelter
The storm shelters from Logix ICF offer built-in resistance:
- Can withstand up to 300 mph winds
- 4-hour fire rating
- Can provide earthquake protection
- Will not rot
- Two thick layers of continuous foam insulation
- 5-day thermal lag
- 60% lower air infiltration compared to traditionally built structures
Quad Lock ICF Shelter
Quad Lock’s ICF safe rooms are made to FEMA’s guidelines. Their Quad-Lock walls and Quad-Deck roof create a hardened room that uses reinforced concrete to keep everyone in the room safe from disaster.
Quad Lock’s safe rooms offer many benefits, including:
- Wind resistance up to 250 mph.
- 3-hour fire rating.
- High impact resistance to withstand the impact of flying debris.
- 12-gauge welded steel door frame
Concrete Block Safe Rooms
Concrete blocks can also be used to construct safe rooms, and this is another simple and effective building method. When water repellent is added to the concrete mix, these structures can be weather resistant. Additional sealers can be applied on-site to add to the structure’s durability and resistance.
Depending on the design and method, wiring and plumbing can even be added to allow your family to stay comfortable while they ride out the storm.
Concrete blocks can be used to construct in-ground, in-home and even above-ground, stand-alone safe rooms.
Do You Really Need a Tornado Safe Room?
If your home has a basement and you live in a tornado prone area, you may be wondering why you would need a tornado safe room.
Won’t your basement provide enough protection?
According to FEMA, strong tornadoes can cause flooring to collapse into the basement, leading to injuries and death. While your basement may be the safest room in the house, it’s not as safe as a safe room built to FEMA standards.
A basement is, however, a great location to build a safe room. Consider the risks of flooding and handicap accessibility before building a safe room in the basement.
If you’re wondering whether a safe room is necessary for your home, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do we have adequate protection from tornadoes?
- Do we have a truly safe space to ride out a hurricane, wildfire or other natural disaster?
- If a manmade disaster occurs, where will we go?
A concrete tornado safe room is like an insurance policy. You’ll hope you never need to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.
With so many options for concrete safe rooms and at affordable prices, it pays to invest in the safety and protection of your family.