Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® Highlights Tornado Safety and Technology to Help Protect Families in Harm’s Way

As nearly uninterrupted severe weather threats continue following tornado destruction last week through today, the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) is highlighting critical actions that will help families and homes survive when tornadoes or severe storms strike.

• The ultimate life safety protection is a tornado safe room. Tested and certified tornado safe rooms protect families from winds and windborne debris up to 250 mph. The rooms can be built or retrofitted into closets or bathrooms inside the home or placed outside in a garage or shed. Additionally, a range of pre-fabricated safe room options can be purchased and installed inside or outside the home. From affordable egg-shaped bunkers to above-ground rooms made from concrete, panelized steel or Kevlar, families now have many ways to survive even the strongest tornadoes.

“Tornado safe rooms save lives, even when EF4 or EF5 tornadoes strike,” said FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “Some of the families who survived the Texas and Oklahoma tornado outbreaks have proved that yet again, and we want all families in harm’s way to know and understand their life-saving potential.”

A tested and certified safe room can add to a home’s value as well. According to a 2007 study by Professor Kevin Simmons, an economist with Austin College, sales prices increased 3.5 percent on average for homes with a safe room, or approximately $4,200.

Tornado safe room information, including a cost calculator, structural details and resource links are available at www.flash.org.

• For less than half the cost of a traditional NOAA weather radio, new life-saving smartphone apps provide severe weather alerts that are faster, cheaper and more portable. Families need to know right away when they are under a tornado watch or warning, especially at night. The new FLASH Weather Alerts app reliably delivers GPS, precision text-to-speech weather hazard warnings on more than 100 options from tornado to flood to wildfire and more.

“Often, surviving a deadly tornado comes down to a matter of seconds,” said Chapman-Henderson. “We are proud to partner with the country’s premier weather data provider to offer this powerful, easy-to-use app that combines new technology with real-time severe weather information. The audible warning feature gives families the advantage of every available second to take shelter. This is especially urgent at night because nocturnal tornadoes are historically the deadliest.”

During 2013 tornado events, the FLASH Weather Alerts app provided severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service nearly 20 minutes earlier than similar apps. FLASH Weather Alerts is now available from the Apple AppStore and Google Play store for $7.99 — less than the average $25.00 price of a traditional weather radio. Visit www.flashweatheralerts.org for more information.

• Most tornado damage occurs below EF4/EF5 level, so minor investments in enhanced building or rebuilding techniques can make a major improvement in a home’s resistance to tornado forces. The National Climatic Data Center estimates that 77 percent of U.S. tornadoes are in the EF0 to EF1 range and 95 percent have wind speeds less than EF3 intensity. A recent cost study revealed that using an average of $0.50 per square foot or $1,000 in metal connectors installed from a home’s roof to its foundation can upgrade a home’s ability to withstand wind uplift from an EF0 to an EF2 tornado.

Additionally, homes built to more modern, model codes will have the advantage of enhanced connector methods using nailing. For example, the 2009 International Residential Code requires only two toe-nailed connections on the rafter to top plate compared to the 2012 International Residential Code which requires a minimum of a third toe-nailed connection. The cost of using the third nail is less than $100 for an entire roof, but the increased uplift strength grows by 50 percent.

“Many will be surprised to learn that homes can be built to withstand damage from EF0 to EF2 tornadoes which historically cause most of the damage,” said Chapman-Henderson. “A modest investment of a handful of additional nails or metal connectors can strengthen homes and protect families from needless injuries, death and property damage from tornadoes. We believe this makes a clear case for prompt and continuous adoption and enforcement of model building codes.”

“Tornado safe rooms, enhanced weather alerting technology and better building practices mean that we no longer need to be at the mercy of tornadoes,” said Chapman-Henderson. “This is an important message as the nation witnesses the devastation of this past week, the massive tornado now ravaging the Oklahoma City metro area and the expected severe weather ahead.”

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