Guidance on including a Safe Room in our Floor Plans

owallerMay 30, 2008

We are finalizing our floor plans and plan on including a pantry that will also be a safe room. We want the safe room to serve as our muster point in case of a storm/bad weather. We'd like some feedback on what others are doing to incorporate a safe/storm room in their house plans. What types of materials you using for walls and ceilings? What are key features that you are adding to your safe/storm room?

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sue36

You should let people know where you are and the types of storms you get. Where I am we can get hurricanes without flooding, but no tornadoes or flooding (like Katrina). People here just use their basement (almost everyone has a basement). Tornadoes are a completely different story, and flooding complicates it dramatically.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 11:25AM
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armomto3boys

We are considering the same thing, the pantry as safe room. I'm talking to the builder this weekend about it.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 12:10PM
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owaller

We are in Northwest Houston (Texas). We encounter heavy rain storms, tornadoes and threats from Hurricane. We live in a very wooded subdivision.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 1:00PM
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brianstreehouse

We live in southern Indiana. Our tornado room is under the front (poured concrete)porch. With concrete walls, floor, and ceiling, my wife feels secure. We also ended up with an extra steel door and since we had to eat the cost of it anyway, we put it on the tornado room. My only problem is that I am claustrophobic and I would rather die in the storm than get trapped in that concrete cube! We store our sleeping bags there and keep a couple gallons of water and canned goods, a flashlight lantern, radio, and mini TV for emergencies.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 4:30PM
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tnhousewife05

we have a safe room in my master closet, our pantry was going to be too small for it. We did cocrete blocked walls with concrete poured down in the blocks with reinforced rebar and a concrete roof to it. We are going with just putting up an exterior door that matches our interior doors instead of a steel door. It was gonna be like $600 or more to have that. We are building in west tennessee. Tornado's/ severe weather quite frequently in our area.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 11:59PM
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demifloyd

We, too, had a safe room built into my closet. I spoke with a professor with the Wind Science and Engineering Department at Texas Tech and he gave me some specs specific to what I was wanting to do, which I gave to the builder. Unfortunately, I cannot find a copy or I would share them with you.

Basically, we have steel walls and a steel ceiling behind the sheetrock. My recollection is the studs were to be between 12 and 15 inches apart, I'm thinking they were around 13.5. Of course thye are bolted into the foundation with special screws.

I was considering a product called Kevlar and it's use in storm shelters is interesting; I haven't looked at it since we were building 3-4 years ago, however.

We also did not go with the steel door; I couldn't find one aesthetically acceptable. That does indeed, compromise the integrity of the storm shelter and I may one day replace the regular door with something more substantial. I understand that sliding doors, properly secured, are stronger because winds can blow a door off the hinges.

The steel walls disconnet my phone calls when I use cordless phones if the handset and the base are on either side of the steel walls. Also cell phone reception is usually disrupted, as well.

I did have a land line run for emergencies and keep a regular phone in the closet/shelter. There is static but it does work. I also keep a battery powered weather radio and water jugs in the closet.

Here is a photo from the master bathroom side just after the steel walls were installed, with a photo after it was finished. The third photo is the closet itself--the land line and electrical outlet and supplies are below my shoe and purse cubbies!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 2:11PM
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jenk2008

We are also building a storm shelter into our poured front porch. Demifloyd has some good ideas, TTU has a website with their recommendations, FEMA also has guidelines (although they are a little hard to read through). On the subject of doors, you can have a decorative door that can be used every day, then you can also have a sliding door inside the room that can be used for storms, I believe TTU has info on this.

The tornado sirens just went off this morning and I was thinking how great it will be to have a true storm shelter-can't wait to get it finished!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 2:03PM
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phoggie

We are considering a door in the floor of our pantry so we can get down into the crawl space (which will be about 4' high at that point). I live in Kansas and want someplace to go if we get a tornado.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 12:01PM
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sweeby

I've never actually been through a tornado or hurricane (knock on wood) but have to wonder if a pantry is a good spot. Do the houses shake during high winds? And if so, would falling cans and bottles be a danger? Or is my imagination over-active?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 5:20PM
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meldy_nva

sweeby ~ no, your imagination is right on! While the safe room should contain food and water sufficient for several days, plastic jugs and metal cans are recommended, and those should be stored at floor level. Re: house shaking - that is dependent on house sturdiness; usually *shaking* isn't so much the problem as the glass shards from broken windows or the roof being lifted off by high wind or walls being penetrated by flying debris.

Keep in mind that safe rooms are usually planned for specific events. The below-ground level preferred for tornado protection is usually needed only for a few hours. Hurricane safe rooms need to protect from high winds, flooding, and tornadoes; and may be needed for several days. That's a big difference in preparation requirements!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 8:12AM
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che1sea

Our plan right now is to have a separate root cellar outside the house with emergency supplies in it. However, where we are building hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes are all not worries, earth quakes are possible but we would be fairly far from the epicenter, also I am not sure if a safe room in the house would do us any good in an earthquake (am I wrong on that?)
No one has mentioned it, probably because it is obvious but just in case, include a first aid kit, important prescriptions, first aid instructions, extra clothes and blankets.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 6:11PM
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sweeby

Having grown up in earthquake country, I can't imagine how a safe room could be of use for earthquakes until we learn to predict them!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 6:38PM
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che1sea

sweeby - that was my thought too. Instead you have to have your whole house as a "safe room" luckily we will be building a good 150 miles from seattle, I grew up right next to Seattle... they say the big one is coming.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 9:20PM
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home_nw

...And Washington State certainly has its seismic building requirements! (More shear walls, bigger timbers, more rebar, etc.) We know there are major fault lines in our area though, so we're not complaining. Like some of the others who have lived in earthquake areas, we're happy to build in any protection we can.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 2:46AM
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cantmakeadecision

We have a safe room in our almost finished house. It has cinder block walls reinforced with rebar and poured concrete. There is also a steel door that will have a panel on the front that looks like the other doors in the house. It was important for me to have AC/ventilation, lighting and an alarm pad inside the room. There will also be a big lock inside (that the kids can't activate) to also make it a "panic room". There is plenty of room inside to store essentials for a few days in back packs in case we need to evacuate. I'm thinking I'll store some type of fold-up seating in there. Sitting on a hard floor for any period of time is not fun.

I had a photo of the construction of the room, but can't seem to locate it on my computer. Here is a photo of the outside - all you see is the steel door.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 6:38PM
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mcbird

We built our safe room inside our garage. Our house is stucco with a tile roof. We went with the DuPont safe room which is kevlar wrapped, bolted to the foundation with a "bank" door. We have a decorative door outside the bank door. We have a hard line phone inside and had an airconditioning duct put in. The a/c was the hardest part-had to figure out a way to put it in and not harm the structural integrity. Our builder contacted DuPont and they sent him an engineer to figure it out. We've used it once and it was pretty amazing. Outside we had 80 mph winds, inside you couldn't hear much of anything. It was pretty expensive, around $7,000 if I remember correctly, but worth it for the peace of mind.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 8:21PM
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flseadog

When we moved to Florida 20 years ago my native Floridian neighbors told me the rule of thumb for all hurricanes is "hide from the wind, run from the water." This means a safe room is a good idea for protection from the wind. It's not a good idea for protection from flooding. In Florida it's important to know your flood evacuation zone and plan accordingly. Old time Floridians that I know who don't live in flood zones rarely evacuate. With the new building codes here a well built house sometimes is a safe house except for Category 5 storms. Most deaths from hurricanes do result from the flooding and the foolish things people do after the storm winds have passed.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 4:52PM
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