Tornadoes And Survival Shelters
Storms are one of Mother Nature’s scariest occurrences; Tornado shelters in Oklahoma are often installed in the garage and underground below the foundation for ultimate safety, if one strikes, would you be prepared for a tornado? A tornado, a violently rotating column of air that connects with both the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud, can cause devastating destruction. Often referred to as twisters or cyclones, tornadoes are strong, fast moving funnels formed by massive thunderstorms called supercells. They can reach speeds of up to 300 miles per hour! The United States endures more tornadoes than any other country in the world, up to thirteen hundred a year. When a tornado touches down, it can leave a path of wreckage, one that can wipe out belongings and lives in a matter of minutes. What can you do to protect your home and family?
While the storms themselves are dangerous, the majority of people who are injured or killed are struck by flying debris. Like hurricanes, tornadoes are defined by categories, with the highest level, an EF6, the most destructive. There are certain areas of the United States that are more susceptible to tornadoes, aptly named Tornado Alley, which loosely encompasses the Midwest and Southern states. The spring and summer months are commonly tornado season, and when they touch down, they leave havoc in their wake.
What steps can be taken to protect you against these monsters of nature? If your home has a basement, that is the safest place to weather the storm, if there are not exposed windows and the concrete walls will withstand the winds. The next safest place would be a hallway or closet on the first level of the home, any room that may be away from windows, doors or outside walls. Wearing closed toed shoes and head protection is also a good idea, especially if you have to venture through debris.
The best protection against tornadoes is a storm shelter and there are various types. Depending upon where you live and when your home was built may help you determine which type of shelter will work best for you. If you live in certain high risk states, you may qualify to receive assistance from the government if the shelter is built to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards. A storm shelter is an excellent investment if you live in an area like Oklahoma that is affected by tornadoes or other natural disasters.
If you are buying a new construction home, during construction is the best time to build a shelter. Costs vary based on size, materials, location and the door style. If it is not an underground unit, the shelter must be bolted to a concrete slab. Underground storm shelters are the overall safest, but there are a few caveats to acknowledge: concrete walls can be affected by soils that freeze in the winter and an underground shelter may be susceptible to floodwaters. You will also need to check with a soil expert to make sure your home is not built on solid bedrock because an underground shelter will undoubtedly be expensive, if not impossible to build. If you are able to construct an underground safe haven, one built under your garage saves you from having to go out during the storm; it is just built in under your garage. Not only is this a safe option, this option doesn’t take up any room in your home. Options include pre-fabricated fiberglass shelters, made for up to four adults with an above ground hatch. Other underground shelters are made from reinforced steel or concrete and are prebuilt structures to be installed under your garage or in your yard, if you choose. Underground units are the safest because they are made of reinforced material and they are not affected by wind and flying debris. Having the shelter installed under your garage, if possible, is ultimately the safest because you and your family never have to set foot outside during the tornado.
There are other options, too, if a shelter under your garage is not viable. Storm shelters build as stand-alone units outside your home can be constructed. Although its purpose is to withstand the powerful winds associated with tornadoes, the shelter can be made to blend in with the rest of your home, so it doesn’t look like an eyesore on your otherwise cohesive property. Shelters can be constructed to match the façade of your home and to even have decorative doors to enhance their look, all while protecting your loved ones inside. Many of these outside shelters are equipped with removable doors, in case flying debris becomes wedged against the door, making it inoperable and impossible to open. Make sure you know all the options available to you when selecting your shelter from the storm.
There are indoor shelter choices, too. An above ground safe room built inside your home, preferably on the first floor so it can be bolted to the foundation is best. These prebuilt structures can be different styles, and may be suited to your needs, such as handicapped accessible or room for additional family members. Made of steel plate panels, a safe room is made to be a secure retreat for your family. It can also be fashioned to double as storage, or be hidden inside a closet or laundry room, especially in open concept homes that have fewer confined spaces. The most important aspect of your storm shelter, however, is that the structure meets the FEMA standards.
Once you have chosen the shelter that best suits your needs, you also need to be prepared for the tornado. Set up communication with your neighbors to start a preparedness program and share the information on social media and other forums to help your community band together during a crisis. FEMA recommends stocking your safe room or shelter with necessities in advance. Items like blankets, water, food, batteries, a flashlight, a first aid kid, tools, and a radio are highly recommended. Prepare accordingly for the number of people in your shelter. Another strategic plan is to test your storm shelter on a regular basis. Make sure the shelter is easily accessible, whether it is underground, on your property or inside your home. You must be able to get to it and inside of it quickly; tornadoes can touch down on a moment’s notice! You will also want to make sure the door is in excellent working order, and can be removed from the inside in case it gets blocked by debris.
If you live in an area afflicted by tornadoes, the best plan is to have a safe, working shelter. Being prepared is your best line of defense against the wrath of Mother Nature’s tornadoes.
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