Should You Invest in a Storm Shelter?

Should You Invest in a Storm Shelter?
  • Opening Intro -

    A series of tornadoes swept through the southeastern United States in April 2011, killing more than 300 people with most of those deaths in Alabama.

    One twister, dubbed the Hackleburg Tornado, claimed more than 70 lives as it traveled 132 miles across much of the state.


Winds topped out at 210 mph, strong enough to sweep brick homes off of foundations.1

Hackelburg Tornado

Rated an EF-5, the Hackleburg Tornado was one of the most destructive in U.S. history, and was part of a system that caused an estimated $5 billion in damages. Warned that a devastating tornado was on the way, many people escaped certain death and hunkered down as the storm pressed in. That still didn’t save countless numbers of people who might have survived had their sanctuary been located below ground. Mobile homes were expected to be flattened, but as solid structures were obliterated, homeowners may want to consider building storm shelters to ride out future catastrophes.

Storms shelters may seem to be something that people who live in Kansas and other “tornado alley” states need, but any homeowner who doesn’t have problem with the water table on his property may find that adding a storm shelter is the best home renovation project they can tackle. Certainly, if your area is prone to tornadoes or hurricanes, a storm shelter could prove to be a life saver.

Seeking Shelter

Some homes come equipped with “safe rooms” which are essentially above ground shelters designed to withstand the worst weather. After seeing brick homes swept away in Alabama, people may rethink the wisdom of an above ground sanctuary, choosing to go below ground to avoid meeting disaster face to face.

What are some of the particulars of an in-ground storm shelter? For that information, we turned to U.S. Storm Shelters, a Fort Worth, Texas company who builds concrete shelters for its customers.2 A standard shelter is 6’ by 8’ and costs about $3,000. With room for 8 people, the standard shelter has a ceiling height of 6’2” and is constructed with 6,000 PSI concrete and fibermesh. The structure is further reinforced with rebar and has walls that are three inches thick and ceilings and floors that are four inches thick. Weighing 12,600 pounds, this type of unit requires bringing heavy equipment on site to put it in place.

Before the shelter can be installed, workers must dig a hole that is 4 and one-half feet deep in the ground. The top two feet of the shelter is above ground, but placed in a small mound. The company says that construction takes three hours to complete.

Shelter Designs

Larger shelters are also available, offering room for 12 people, weighing 20,000 pounds and costing approximately $5,000. Other manufacturers offers similar sized shelters, some of which can include electrical hook up.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration rates above ground shelters and bestows its FEMA F-5 rating on shelters designed to withstand the worst tornado or hurricane winds possible. Below ground units don’t encounter the same level of wind pressure, thus no rating is needed. In any case, if you are considering a storm shelter, the National Storm Shelter Association offers guidance on what to look for in a shelter and holds it members to its standards as well as to federal, state and local guidelines.3

Your Safety

No storm shelter can absolutely guarantee your protection, but having a unit available may be the best chance you and your loved ones will have in surviving a catastrophic winds, similar to what recently took the lives of hundreds of people in six southeastern states this year.

Besides offering security, a storm shelter may enhance the value of your home. Home buyers living in areas where storm damage is possible may put an added value on a storm shelter when considering purchasing your home.


1 The Huntsville Times; 132 Miles of Devastation: EF-5 Tornado Deadliest in United States in Last 56 years; Challen Stephens; May 8, 2011

2 U.S. Storm Shelters: Original Concrete Shelter

3 National Storm Shelter Association: Home

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Last update on 2020-02-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API



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Categories: Home Safety

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine", an online publication. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and weblogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".