Tornadoes can be destructive and are potentially deadly. However, taking timely precautions can save lives and reduce property damage.
Although all 50 states experience tornadoes, two regions typically have a higher number each year.One is Florida, and the other is Tornado Alley, an area covering all or parts of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota,Ohio,Oklahoma,South Dakota and Texas.
Tornado Alley is a hotspot for these violent storms due to the cold polar air from Canada, warm tropical air from Mexico and dry air from the Southwest clashing in the middle of the country.Tornadoes in this region typically happen in late spring and occasionally the early fall, but they can appear at any time of year.
The severity of a tornado is categorized by the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale, with ratings from EFO (65-85 mph three-second gusts of wind) to EF5 (over 200 mph).
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Oklahomans, who have seen more than their share of tornadoes, are planning ahead by identifying a safe place in their homes to hide during a tornado.
Choose a room that is away from windows in a centrally located spot that is as low to the ground as possible. If you have a basement, make it your safe place. If you do not have a basement, consider an interior hallway or room on the lowest floor. Make sure your safe place has no windows or glass doors, and keep this place uncluttered.
Many homeowners are adding a tornado storm shelter to their homes for an added measure of safety. Robert Kleven, new home salesperson with Concept Builders, is seeing an increased interest in safe rooms.
"It started even before the terrible Moore disaster, but that dramatically increased overall interest,"says Kleven. "About 25 percent of the new homes we build include safe rooms, but we expect that to increase over the next year."
Local home builder Brian D.Wiggs gets requests for safe rooms from practically every new client he takes on.
"Sometimes the safe room does not make the final budget cut, but they all would like to have one,"says Wiggs. In fact, 75 percent of his clients include a safe room in their new home.
These storm shelters can be installed anywhere in the house, then the house is built around the safe room. "We usually build them as a closet in one of the guest rooms, and the steel walls are concealed behind Sheetrock wall,"Wiggs says."AII that remains showing is the steel door."
When deciding to include a safe room in your home, make sure it meets the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) criteria.
"The FEMA 320 guide to safe rooms includes design requirements so that the room will be anchored properly to a reinforced slab and will be able to withstand penetration from debris at speeds of an EF5 tornado," says Vince Mims, owner/ national manager for Family Safe, the company that installs Wiggs'safe rooms.
Whether you choose an in-ground or above-ground shelter is up to you. If you have physical limitations,are older or want to use the safe room as a gun safe or a vault, an above-ground safe room is a better choice. If you don't have the space for an above-ground shelter, an underground shelter would work better for you. Either one is acceptable as long as the storm shelter is built and installed correctly.
According to FEMA.gov, 76 percent of all tornado fatalities occur from people exiting their homes, so inside the home is best and quickest.
"But depending on the home and the budget, it is not always the best option or even a possibility,"Mims says."Give yourself enough time to get into the room/shelter safely. If you need to exit the home to get into the safe room, leave early and stay late."
Before buying a safe room, do your homework. Check out the companies with the Better Business Bureau. Look at the company's safe room testing,certifications and work history. Ask if the storm shelter was tested by Texas Tech University or other laboratories, and request to look at the test documents for yourself. The National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University has a track record of being one of the best locations for designing and testing storm shelters. Since the 1970s, Texas Tech has pioneered the scientific development of materials and construction that will make storm shelters withstand the harshest winds,and they continue to test and certify today's best products.
Less than half of the shelter designs on the market today have been built to meet or exceed FEMA 320 standards for safe room construction or have been impact-tested at Texas Tech's National Wind Institute.
The installation and construction of your storm shelter can make the difference between life and death in an emergency.With that in mind, it's never been more important to know what you are getting.