How to Design a Tornado-Safe Room


It typically costs about $2,500 to $5,000 to build a tornado-proof safe room. To be sure, this isn’t an insignificant amount of money. But one should consider just how devastating a tornado is. It’s worth considering whether or not one can put a monetary value on the lives and health of one’s family. In reality, there’s really nothing that can match the value of a family member. And those family members would feel the same. This only brings up the last question. How does one go about creating a tornado safe room?

The first step to building a tornado safe room involves the Federal Emergency Management Agency publication 320. This FEMA manual is entirely centered around the concept of building a safe room inside one’s house. Even better, the booklet is totally free. This should provide one with some suggestions before hiring a builder. Or, conversely, things to consider before doing it on one’s own. However, there are still a few things that need to be taken into consideration before proceeding.

The absolute most important consideration needs to be which area to convert. It’s important to select an area that can function without windows and with a significant ability to stand up to wind. Basements will instantly qualify if they’re available. And in general, it’s safe default for anyone who has one.

If a basement isn’t available than one needs to try converting a room into something as close as possible. One of the first steps will involve getting rid of windows. Next, doors need to open inward. This will ensure that debris doesn’t trap one inside the safe room. Finally, sections of the interior or exterior walls need to be separated from the main structure of a building. This step in particular is why a basement is always preferred if possible. Using one’s basement essentially gives one of the most expensive parts of the process as a free bonus.

Considering how to design a tornado-safer room is also important to ensure the room is large enough for one’s family. Ideally, it’ll have enough room to ensure that visitors will be able to enter into it as well. In general, the room should have at least five square feet of space per individual. Obviously the more space the better.

Next, one should consider what to keep in the room. If this was a standard room than more concern would be needed for potentially airborne debris. However, if people can trust the integrity of the room this won’t be a concern. It’s best, to begin with, the essentials that will be needed in an emergency. This includes medications, first aid kits, emergency radios, water, water filters, and food which can be stored long term.

The extent to which the room needs to be strengthened depends on expected wind strength. It’s not always possible to fully predict how strong tornadoes, or even storms, will be. However, one can get a good estimate by using yet another FEMA document. FEMA’s Wind Zones in the United States contain maps that show the wind zones in any given area. This will help suggest how much work needs to go into the safe room’s infrastructure.

While not as necessary it can be helpful to have some solar cells on hand along with a battery to charge cellphones. Of course, this will only be useful in situations where a storm has finished and one can safely go outside to use the solar cells. Likewise, the water filters will mostly be useful in situations after a storm if clean water is an ongoing issue.

Finally, it’s important to ensure that everything is fully legal. This is one of the reasons why the FEMA documentation is so helpful. It ensures that one is building safely and according to proper procedure.