Include storm shelter in house plans
May 15, 2003
The devastating tornadoes that hit southwest Missouri recently have caused many area residents to think about making better preparations for surviving future storms.

According to Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist, University of Missouri Outreach and Extension, having a shelter built into or near the home can help protect families from injury or death caused by dangerous, extreme winds.

"Wind gusts from severe storms in Missouri can exceed 250 miles per-hour and much of the state has a very high incident rate of tornadoes per 1,000 square miles. Combining these factors places the entire state at a high risk level that warrants a shelter," said Schultheis.

A shelter or safe room should be uncluttered and easily accessible from all parts of the house. It must be located in a flood-free area, well-anchored to resist overturning and uplift, and the walls, roof and door should be strong enough to resist penetration by wind-borne missiles.

"Common house construction techniques based on minimum building codes generally don't provide adequate protection. Most Missouri counties do not have even these minimum building codes," said Schultheis.

To help homeowners and builders design and build shelters that will withstand extreme wind speeds, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a 28-page booklet entitled FEMA 320 "Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House. The book includes 16 pages of construction plans and cost estimates.

A free copy can be obtained by calling FEMA toll-free at 1-888-565-3896 or by visiting their website.

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