The Only Thing Worse Than No Tornado Safe Room is an Improperly Installed Tornado Safe Room

Jay Hamburg, FLASH Consumer Writer

The deadly outbreak of tornadoes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and across the central United States serves as a stark reminder of the lifesaving value that safe rooms can provide. At the same time, some tragic cases remind us that safe rooms can only protect you and your loved ones if they are properly installed.

Reports that heavy rainfalls caused some underground tornado safe rooms to pop up out of the ground serve as warnings that even a heavy, sturdy, underground tornado safe room can be dislodged by unexpected water flow during a tornado when installed the wrong way.

And, regardless of installation quality, you should never enter an underground tornado safe room if flooding is expected as water flow could cover air vents, or drowning could occur.

“If you have an underground tornado safe room, proper stabilizing and anchoring is very straightforward,” said FLASH SVP Tim Smail. “We recommend using a National Storm Shelter Association Installer Member or ensure your installer follows the ICC/NSSA-500 standard or FEMA P-361 guidelines.”

There are also many affordable options for prefabricated and site-built tornado safe rooms. Prefabricated safe rooms are those that are assembled off-site and transported to the site where they will be installed. A site-built safe room is assembled and installed on-site. Regardless of which type of safe room you choose, be sure to discuss the following with your safe room installation contractor:

  1. Is your home located in a floodplain? If so, keep in mind FEMA P-361 does not allow safe rooms to be installed in high-risk flood hazard areas.
  2. Does your property have the proper access for equipment needed for installation? Installation could involve a large crane or flatbed truck.
  3. Are there easements on your property that would limit where a safe room could be installed?
  4. Have you checked with your neighborhood association to see what design or structural guidelines must be followed? Many associations have rules regarding outdoor structures and their placement.

Most types of tornado safe rooms can be installed and completed in a day, with the average cost for an 8-by-8 foot room ranging from $8,000 to $9,500. Each offers different advantages, but when built and installed properly, all provide the best available life safety and property protection against tornadoes. And it is essential that we point out the need to use a tested door.

The myth that there is nothing you can do to protect against a tornado is false. We want consumers to know that they can survive if they choose smart. Our new video series, Which Tornado Safe Room is Right for You, will help them get started.

FLASH and Partners Answer Questions About Natural Disaster Insurance and Home Preparation with Updated Publication

Nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® today released an updated version of their most popular publication, If Disaster Strikes Will You Be Covered? A Homeowner’s Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters.

Updated in time for the June 1 start of hurricane season, FLASH and The Actuarial Foundation are offering the free, comprehensive consumer guide online as well as, on a limited basis, in print in English and Spanish with topics covering earthquake, flood, hail, hurricane, lightning, power outage, tornado, wildfire, and winter freeze. The Guide addresses how to stay safe, save money, and protect homes with answers to top consumer questions, including:

  1. What disasters are covered in my insurance policy?
  2. How can I lower premiums?
  3. What steps should I take to prevent damage to my home?

With single year views of up to 500,000, the Guide is in demand by homeowners and renters alike. “For more than 16 years, we have provided information to consumers before, during, and after natural catastrophes,” said FLASH President and CEO, Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “We are honored to collaborate with The Actuarial Foundation to make a new version of this information-rich publication possible once again.”

“The Actuarial Foundation is proud to partner with FLASH in updating the well-known If Disaster Strikes Will You Be Covered? A Homeowners’ Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters,” said Actuarial Foundation Executive Director, Eileen Streu. “The Guide is a reliable resource and remains one of the most popular publications for FLASH partners and consumers visiting the Foundation’s website.”

Visit Homeowner’s Insurance Guide to download and share the Guide or email info@flash.org for more information.