Birmingham and Tornado Alley
A tornado can be a life-changing event if it hits a family home. Tornadoes have wind speeds of up to 300 miles per hour and can flatten a home to the slab if it is a direct hit. Hurricanes can have a similar devastating effect, but the wind speeds are not as severe. The wind speeds in most hurricanes reach 150 to 200 miles per hour.
Hurricane wind speeds are more sustained and longer lasting. There is a better chance of flying debris damage lasting longer in a hurricane. One of the main damage factors in a hurricane is rising floodwaters, which a storm shelter or safe room may or may not offer much protection.
Safe Rooms and Storm Shelters
A safe room or storm shelter really speaks about the same concept, differing only in respect to where it is placed in a home setting. The shelter can actually be a room in the home that is reinforced with metal walls to make it virtually impregnable to the forces of the rampaging winds of a tornado. The shelter can also be built underground, or placed anywhere conforming to the plans of the house when it is being built. The entrance to the underground shelter could be from a closet in a bedroom, for example.
Storm Shelter Designs Differ
The shelter could also be in a garage with room to drive a vehicle into the shelter with extra room either underground or in an additional side room. The imagination and ability to pay for the extra materials necessary to reinforce the area are the only limitations. The safe room or shelter could also be a retreat if intruders entered the home, for example.
The basic lessons learned from research of several companies concluded that the structure, durability and strength were the key ingredients that needed to be in place in order to provide the end result that would protect people from the most severe storms.
Fiberglass shelters were found to not be strong enough for protection in a severe tornado. Concrete shelters have the negative issue that the walls will sweat and become moldy over time. They are not strong enough either because large tornadoes routinely sweep away concrete structures. Metal shelters have been found to be the best solution if the metal is properly coated to prevent corrosion.
Pricing Can Also Vary
Pricing comparisons are attempted for differing companies with similar size shelters. The cost is for the shelter only, not including costs for locating the shelter underground, etc.
Company 1 – 5X5X8 Shelter – $6,195 – Withstands an F5 tornado
Company 2 – 4 to 5 person shelter $4,495 – All metal
Company 3 – 7 person safe room, sitting only – $5,295 – All metal
Company 4 – 82” X 82” Safe Room – $5145 – Withstands an F5 tornado
There are as many designs and placement possibilities as there are differing home designs. Some shelters are elaborate wings on house with a kitchen and bathroom. Others are nothing more than metal boxes that can fit into a garage addition or enclose a closet or room in the house. There are plans and capabilities for every whim and budget. Think of it this way: any fortified room or addition will be better than trying to hide in a bathtub or closet during an F-5 tornado.