Does Your Home Have a Safe Room?

SHELBY COUNTY RESIDENTS: If you intend on applying for this FEMA funding, you must attend a MANDATORY meeting at Oak Mountain High School on Monday, August 1st at 10 am.

The month of April was a record breaking month in many different facets for the State of Alabama.  When the 30-year average (1981-2010) is only 37 tornadoes per year, in the month of April 2011 alone, the state incurred 103 tornadoes.  That is 9 more than 2008, when the record was set at 94.  More importantly, there were more EF-4 tornadoes in April 2011 than in the years 2000-2010, combined.  Additionally, 2011 now holds the record for the most EF-4 (9) and EF-5 (2) tornadoes in a single calendar year.  Does this mean Alabama is in store for more and more tornadoes in the coming years?  Not necessarily.  But, now is the time to prepare in advance by doing what it takes to protect you and your family.  One way to do this is by installing a Safe Room in your home.

What is a Safe Room?

According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), your residence may be built 'to code', but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room or a wind shelter is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection.

To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:

  • The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
  • The walls, ceiling, and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
  • Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room, must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.
What Can You Do? 

There is no doubt a Safe Room can be an expensive venture.  With prefabricated Safe Rooms running anywhere from $3000 and up, some family budgets may not be able to absorb this cost.  But, there is help out there.  FEMA has set aside monies to help the citizens of Alabama build Safe Rooms in their homes.  In some cases, FEMA will reimburse a home owner up to 75% of the cost of the installed Safe Room (up to $4000).  The application deadline is September 1st, so if you're interested, contact your county's Emergency Management Agency (EMA) office today!

Additional Links

FEMA 320: Taking Shelter From the Storm, Building a Safe Room For Your Home or Small Business

FEMA 621: Design and Construction Guidance for Community Safe Rooms is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.