More on Storm Shelters!
If you have decided that you want to invest in a storm shelter, but prefer a pre-manufactured one rather than having a "safe room" constructed, we hope to help you with this page. We have assembled a list of shelter manufacturers with web pages, and with their help, made concise tables of the saliant features of each. Links to these tables are listed below. We urge you to visit their pages as well, but this page can get you started by allowing you to narrow your list to ones that are possible choices. Our listing of them on this page should not be construed as either approval or recommendation...only as a convenience for you, our readers. At the end of the list are some thoughts on other considerations.
The purpose of this page is not to be a "Consumer Report" of storm shelters. Our purpose is only to make it a little easier for a person who is looking for the nitty gritty information they need to rule out the shelters that are not appropriate for their location, for their needs, for their price range and for the use to which they will put it. The accessories that are important for one family are not important for everyone. If you find yourself going to a shelter many times during the year, you might prefer a shelter that has a few more amenties than someone who uses it only a few times a year. If you are about to build a home, you might want to consider a "safe room" or a shelter that is installed beneath part of the home. Some families might want to have a shelter that does "double-duty" as a storage area for other things, like a cold cellar. These pages will get you started. You might want to begin with the manufacturer. If the actual manufacturer is not in your area, they may list a dealer in your area that carried their shelter. Their list of dealers will be more up-to-date than mine will be. The list of manufacturers includes both those companies who have their shelters fabricated by a second company(but according to their specific design), AND those who build shelters in their own plant. I have not distinguished between the two. Not each manufacturer answered every question, and a few did not respond to any question, but I have listed them anyway.
If you are using Netscape, each time you click on a shelter from the list below, your browser should open a separate browser window. You can resize these windows so that several tables may be viewed at the same time.
Manufactures and Sells Underground Shelters
Manufactures and Sells Above-Ground Shelters
Below is a list of dealers with web pages you may wish to visit. They may carry one or more of the storm shelters we have listed above. Some dealers may have both underground and above ground shelters available. This list does not convey approval or disapproval of any dealer or any particular shelter...only as a convenience to you, our reader. You should consider the questions we suggested on our first shelter page.
- Storm-Gard Cellars. Xton, Inc of Florence, Alabama, sells the Storm Gard Shelter. They will deliver and install the shelter anyplace within a 100 mile radius of Florence. They have been business since 1983, and have been installing shelters for 1 year. The most common issues they deal with when installing shelters are rock, high water table, hillsides, and crowded lots.
- Immediate Shelter, in Arlington, Texas, serves the north Texas area with underground shelters.
- Storm and Tornado Shelters of Texas makes their own shelter, but also sells other lines of shelters.
- Ground Safe, located in Titus, Alabama, also carries several shelters. One line is from the Remagen Corporation; its Storm Closet is one of the shelters detailed on this page. They also have the Ground Safe, seating up to 10 people, and the Esteem, seating 4-6 people. These underground shelters are made from a "composite."
- Tornado Shelters, Inc.
Which is better...an underground shelter or an above ground shelter?
Pros for underground shelters
Cons for underground shelters
- it is always safer to be below ground level in a tornado
Pros for above ground shelters
- they are more susceptible to stresses and strains if soil freezes in the wintertime
- they are more susceptible to floating because of a high water table
- they may be more expensive to prepare the site for if there is bedrock
Cons for above ground shelters
- require less ground preparation
- can usually be entered more easily, particularly by aged or disabled family members
- may take up valuable space on the house lot
Which is better...entering an underground shelter through the house or leaving your house to enter it?
Pros for in-house entry into underground shelters:
Cons for in-house entry into underground shelters:
- it is safer if the tornado is almost upon you
- it is more convenient than having to go outside
- it is less suceptible to invasion by unwanted critters
- it is easier to control access to by "visitors" like neighborhood children
- if the tornado totally destroys your home, you may be trapped until your house debris can be cleared off the entrance to the shelter
- it cannot be easily installed in a preexisting home
- if it is not installed properly, it might heave out of frozen ground or float out of a waterlogged soil, doing bad things to the inside of your home
Should you lock(or even be able to lock) the door to a storm shelter?
That depends on:
- whether you store anything in it, and if those items are needed or valuable
- whether you have neighborhood children who use it as a place to play(or get into mischief)
- whether there are vagrants who decide to make it their home
- and most important of all...whether you(and everyone else in the family) can remember where you put the key! If you have only 15 seconds to reach and enter the shelter, having to unlock the door may be the difference between life and death.
There is no law that requires a manufacturer to have their shelter tested.
After the recent tornado outbreak in Oklahoma(May 3, 1999), though, residents who applied for and were elegible for a $2000 rebate(under FEMA's Project Impact, designed to help victims rebuild after natural disasters) on the cost of a shelter were required to confine their choice of a shelter to approved manufacturers. Shelter manufacturers may or may not have had it done, as it can cost thousands of dollars, and may even require extensive reworking of material or design elements in the structure. However, if a company has had their shelter tested and approved by either Texas Tech or some other safety testing company/group, it probably indicates an intent to create a quality product. On the other hand, if a company hasn't had any testing, but has been in the storm shelter business for many, many years, they are probably doing something right!
It is logical that debris impact testing would be more important for above-ground shelters, and ground-stress testing would be more important for below-ground shelters. Since most communities would require a building permit for such a project, a family would have to have a building inspector examine the plans for the shelter, and what building inspectors require would probably vary from community to community...perhaps even requiring the approval of a professional engineer. For shelters following the FEMA safe-room, the plans in the booklet Seeking Shelter from the Storm would probably be sufficient.
At the present time(November, 1999), Texas Tech University is the only facility approved by FEMA to do debris impact testing. However, professional engineering firms can do testing to determine the amount of stress a particular structure can withstand.
Dr. Ernest Kiesling and April MacDowell of the Wind Engineering Institute at Texas Tech have been kind enough to answer many questions for us, and send a list of those shelters that have been tested and approved by them. Not all these companies have web pages.
The following companies have sent us documentation showing that their shelters have passed testing and we have it on file here:
- Heartland Storm Shelters
- Keep Safe Severe Weather Shelters
- Storm Closet Shelters
- Texas Tornado Shelters
The FEMA criteria for storm shelters includes wind loads and debris impact. It is a goal that shelter manufacturers should design for, but it is a certainly more relevant for above-ground shelters than underground shelters, and is aimed more at shelters that are designed for group or school use.
Obviously, above-ground shelters must be more resistant to flying debris than underground shelters(even though boards and steel beams, etc, have been known to be driven many feet into the ground in tornadoes), and underground shelters must be more resistant to the stresses of frozen ground and/or a high water table. The FEMA criteria point outs that the entryway for an underground shelter is the weak point in a tornado, so the door or hatch cover of the shelter should be able to resist both the wind load and the impact from flying debris. They make a number of suggestions for items to be present in the shelter that would be supplied by the homeowner, rather than the shelter manufacturer. They also point out special provisions for shelters that may be installed in areas susceptible to flooding or earthquakes. You can download and read the entire FEMA criteria from this FEMA server.
If you want to use frames, you will get more reliable results by using the navigation panel on the left.
Tornadoes in the past
FAQ about Tornadoes
Tornado Top Tens
The Fujita Scale
The TPO Store
Who We Are
Other Neat Stuff about Tornadoes
The Storm Cellar
The Tornado Project
PO Box 302
St. Johnsbury, Vermont 05819
© 2000 The Tornado Project All rights reserved. All content, text, and graphics on these pages are the property of The Tornado Project and may not be reproduced, electronically or otherwise unless specified.