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Storm shelter safety above and below ground

For many years, researchers and experts have explored the design and performance of both above ground safe rooms and below ground storm shelters. Customers inquire on a regular basis as to which is “best”. The answer to the question is really “both” depending upon your specific circumstances.

The most important thing to consider with any storm shelter or safe room is whether or not it carries legitimate safety certification. Beware of companies that advertise false slogans such as “FEMA Approved”. The Federal Emergency Management Administration does not directly test or approve any storm shelter. They do, however, set forth recommendations and standards which all ATSA (American Tornado Shelter Association) and NSSA certified shelters are built to meet or exceed.

All Producing Members of the ATSA must have their product designs evaluated by a third party engineering firm. These manufacturers must also take their shelters through rigorous debris impact testing with a certified testing facility like ATI (Architectural Testing, Inc.) or the Wind Science & Engineering Center at Texas Tech University. Only units that successfully pass these tests can carry ATSA certification.

There are pros and cons to be had between above ground safe rooms and in-ground storm shelters, although generally the terms “safe room” and “storm shelter” are interchangeable.

Above ground shelters, or “safe rooms” as we refer to them, offer the benefit of being accessible from inside your home. Should a storm approach suddenly, without warning, you have the peace of mind of being able to get to a safe room without ever leaving your home. Safe rooms can also move with you should you ever decide to relocate. If your home has a zero lot line or simply does not have enough outdoor space to accommodate an in-ground unit, a safe room can still provide you with protection from EF-5 (250 MPH) tornadoes. The downside of safe rooms is that they are generally constructed of steel or other such material and thus are more expensive per square foot than a pre-cast concrete in-ground unit.

Below ground shelters have pros and cons as well. In most cases, they are less expensive per square foot than interior, above ground units. Many people prefer to be underground as they feel safer than they would in an above ground shelter. The cons of in-ground shelters are that they are permanent for the most part and are difficult if not impossible to move once they are installed. The other downside is that, depending on placement, they can be difficult to reach if you are hit by a strong storm without warning.

The bottom line is that you are far better off with either of these than with no shelter at all.

Please feel free to contact us at U.S. Storm Shelters if you have questions on an in-home personal safe room or an external in-ground concrete storm shelter and decide for yourself.

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