Tornado Shelter: an example of a safe room.

Finished Tornado Shelter

In the past few weeks Middle Tennessee has been hit hard with stormy weather including more than our share of tornadic activity.  At best the loss has been a tree or two, at worst the loss is of life. Yesterday the 10th of April  in Murfreesboro, 110 homes were destroyed which including the loss of 2 lives.  The deaths occurred when a mother and her young child tried to flee their home.

Many homes today are built without even a small cellar.  Taking shelter in one of these home usually comes down to crouching in a hallway, or huddled in a bathtub.   This past year we built and installed a tornado shelter during some extensive remodeling.  The picture above is a view of the finished shelter.  The shelter barely perceivable, sits under the screened in porch. We installed a tongue and groove porch deck above the shelter, so the only thing that gives the shelter away from inside is the stairwell heading down.

Here is a quick progression of work.

Demo existing porch – Excavate area for form work – Pour 8-12 inch think pad with re bar 6″ O.C. – Setup form work for walls and floor with same re bar layout – Pour walls and ceiling together – Build steps into storm shelter – Finish exterior with brick and screened porch. Here are some pictures of the work.

Formwork Shelter

Stairwell and Formwork

Forms Removed

Waterproofing the concrete with a rubber membrane below grade, and daylighting  a floor drain ensures that come what may our safe room won’t become a swimming pool.  For more protection, the stairwell heading down into the shelter is divided from the main safe area while still being inside the walls of the entire shelter.  With a 12 inch thick high strength concrete ceiling,  the storm shelter was designed to withstand the fall of the adjacent home on top of it, and still have an exit in the form of a small window on the backside.  Add electricity and lights and you have a room worthy to wait out an storm.

Where is your tornado safe zone in your current house?

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2 Responses to Tornado Shelter: an example of a safe room.

  1. Kim May 15, 2011 at 7:08 AM #

    I have both an indoor and an outdoor cellar. The indoor cellar is accessed through a trapdoor in the pantry. I’ve never even opened the outdoor cellar, and I’ve been here 25 years.

    I live in “Tornado Alley”, south central Oklahoma.

  2. Christine Shuck May 15, 2011 at 5:38 PM #

    I have a basement…thankfully. I cannot imagine living in the Midwest without one. Inside of the basement, which is completely underground (except for what…2 feet?) I have a room that is completely enclosed and safe. A safe room within the basement, if you will.

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