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Safe Shelter Provides Best Protection Against Tornadoes

April 4, 2011 by  

Safe shelter provides best protection against tornadoesA suspected tornado has injured seven people and temporarily trapped a handful of residents in Florida.

Gusts reached up to 90 miles per hour on April 1 in Tampa, according to ABC News. Although no major injuries were reported, the incident served as a reminder that tornado season is in full swing. Around this time each year, many Americans take precautions to ensure self-survival in the event of a twister.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that tornadoes can strike quickly and with little warning. Although they can form at any time, they are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

During a tornado, FEMA advises that people should ideally have a pre-designated shelter area, such as a basement or storm cellar. However, if homeowners do not have access to these locations, the agency said that the center of an interior room, such as a closet, on the lowest building level is the safest place to be.

If an individual is in a vehicle, trailer or mobile home, he or she should get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or storm shelter, FEMA suggests. Cars and mobile homes can be displaced and severely damaged by tornadoes.

If a person is outside when a tornado hits and has no access to safe shelter, FEMA says that lying flat in nearby ditch or depression is the best bet to avoid being struck by debris. However, one should be aware of the potential for flooding. 

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  • http://deleted Claire

    Downstairs I have a room off the family room. During the winter it is full of plants. Come early spring the plants are moved out and I put the dog crates back in. At the first sign/news of a storm, I put the dogs downstairs ahead of time, just in case. That way I am prepared and I don’t have to hustle at the last minute to get the dogs to safety. All my husband and I have to do is get downstairs when the sirens go off.
    I remember once many years ago, it was stormy, I was at work, and about 4:00 p.m. the sirens went off. I left the office, drove home like a madman. I got the dogs and their metal crates downstairs in a hurry. I cannot believe I lifted those crates. Believe me, my adrenalin was flowing. I had the strength of a bodybuilder! After that, I spent the money to buy extra fold-up metal crates. Now I am prepared. Whew! What I do for my dogs. Oh well, they are “people” just like me and they are worth it.

  • Laura


    That’s a lovely story. But why the heck do you have to have your dogs in crates? They would have a better chance of survival without being trapped in a stupid crate.

    • http://deleted Claire

      Laura: We have been through 2 tornadoes. With 8 dogs I do not want them flying around in mid-air. The room we hide in is safe, at least it has been so far. Have you ever seen an animal flying about up in the air? Well, that is exactly what happens. Then they are flung to the ground. There is a lot to think about. To me, they are much safer with ME and in a crate.

  • sirian

    This is funny in its own right since anyone with a lick of sense, not to many seem to have that anymore, would have one of the following. . . A Tornado Safe Room, A Basement that is well constructed and safe for tornados or, best of all, a cellar. With the storm/tornado warning systems that we have in place and available to us 24 hrs a day – much better than what we had back in the fifties – there is no excuse that people shouldn’t have one of those three installed or built for the basic purpose of surviving mother natures wrath. Very seldom do you see a new house being built with a full basement. Very seldom do you see a housing addition, new or fairly old that each house has a cellar close by. Only recently – the past ten years or so – have Tornado Safe Rooms actually hit the market and even though their sales rate is up it would still take at least thirty to forty years to have almost, almost every house in a much safer state. As I said, this is kinda funny – people are told or hear this year after year after year and no matter how many times they may be told there will always be those that never listen.

    • jeanelane

      In some areas of the country, it is difficult if not impossible to have a basement or cellar (like Florida). And if tornadoes are rare, you have to weigh the cost with the possible consequences. Most people are not stupid, as you seem to allude to. Its just that their priorities are different than yours. Can’t worry and prepare for every eventuality.

      • tim

        i have lived in louisiana and south ga. where there is sometimes local flooding and in each case you can build an above ground root cellar/storm shelter at minimal cost

    • 45caliber

      A farm a couple of miles from mine, when I was a boy, had a concrete cellar buried in the back yard. A tornado came through one Saturday while the family was at town.

      When they returned, their house was untouched. The cellar, less than a hundred feet from the back door, was popped out of the ground and rolled and tumbled for nearly three hundred yards across a field. It was torn all to pieces.

      The point is that with a tornado, you NEVER knew what is going to happen. You try to make the best preparations you can and pray … A lot…

    • granny mae


      I have lived in several states that have tornados and in none of the states did we ever have a warning system where I lived! We had a basement in our other houses and went to the basement as soon as we knew there was a tornado, however there are times at night when you have no warning and they seem to come out of nowhere! As for where we live now , we live in Florida and there are no basements because the water table is only a few feet below the surface of the ground. In a lot of places in Florida you are at sea level and sometimes even below sea level. We do not have a warning siren here and there is no place to go to get below ground level. Also there are some people that can’t aford to build a safe room in their home. Many people would like to but when you live pay day to pay day there just isn’t enough money to do such a thing. I have been in tornado’s where there was no way I could get to a shelter. You are not always home and right by your safe room when such things happen.

  • 45caliber

    I know that some “experts” now say that you are as safe with your windows closed as open. I’ve been in the edges of tornados and seen a lot of houses hit by them.

    The ones with a window open survive more often. This is due to air pressure. The semi-still air in a house has the air pressure outside. But when a tornado sweeps over, the high wind speeds lower the air pressure on the outside of the house unless there is a way to allow that air pressure to escape. It only takes a couple of ounces different air pressure to cause a house or any other item not designed to withstand a vacuum to explode.

    One man I know had his house razed by a tornado. He said everything was fine even with the tornado whirling around his house until he closed the last window. The instant it closed, the house came apart. He said the only reason he lived was because the house exploded OUT rather than in. That alone is enough proof for me.

    • granny mae

      Tornado’s are the strangest storms I have ever been in. They never do the same thing twice it seems! I was in my car when one came through and picked my car up, shook it and set it back down and my father-in-laws house was just a block away and his garage was moved 6 inches off the foundation but the house sitting 10 feet away from the garage was fine. There was an old house next door with dirt floors and leaning something terrible and that place wasn’t even touched! It was about 50 feet away from the folks! That was one scary day ! Also had a tornado pick our boat up from the back yard and set it down in the school yard across the street and never even touch the house or the garbage pail sitting next to the garage ! I have been walking two blocks from home and look up to see the clouds forming right over my head. I ran the two blocks home and just as I got onto the porch the tornado hit and took the huge tree across the street and laid it right across the electrical wires and the edge of the front porch where I was standing just seconds before ! I can honestly say I don’t like tornados. None of these tornados happened during a rain storm ! It was clear sunny and hot. The rain came after the tornado !

      • granny mae

        People not all tornado’s are black ! I have seen many white or light grey tornados in my time. They didn’t get black until they got on the ground and got dirt in them. I will say this though every tornado I have been had one sure sign that they were there or close and that was the air got real still. I noticed the smoke from our burn barrel was going straight up in the air and not waving in any other direction. People smoking will notice their smoke going straight up and it will feel real still. The last one we were in I noticed my cigarette smoke (that was when I smoked a long time ago) was going straight up and it was very still. I jumped up and grabbed the baby from his crib and shouted to my husband to get to the basement as I ran past with the baby! Just after I got down there I heard it going by and I’m still yelling at my husband to get to the basement. After it was all over I went back upstaires to find him still putting on his boots and laceing them up!! For some reason when ever there is something like that happening he goes in circles! I told him if he didn’t learn to get it together quicker he was one day going to find himself going in circles in the back forty some place or wrapped around a tree ! LOL ! That was almost 50 years ago and nothing has changed !

  • David

    There are designs on record of above ground rebar concrete reinforced safe rooms that protect from high winds and high speed objects. No need to excavate with these other than the foundation for the room.

  • KiloAlpha

    ICF: Insulated Concrete Forms offer protection. Many options, too.

  • Ridge Runner

    I built a storm shelter several years ago and just lately converted it to store food,It has a floor of 6 inches of concrete,8 inch block walls with rebar and poured full with concrete and 6 inch roof of concrete and with rebar in it. I built in a bank and most of it is under ground.It would probably make a fair bomb shelter it would take a direct hit to destroy it i intend to build another beside it just like it. It will also be used for food storage.

  • Beth Kaplan

    For those without the practical reasons to do this(such as living in Florida or LA, maybe), but owning a house, I’d recommend taking a heavily-padded cushion or pillow into the closet with you to protect
    your head – in case projectiles come through the closet door, G-d forbid. Also a heavy blanket [likewise] to protect your body if you’re
    unable to drag a mattress in with you or, at least, in front of you against the open closet door. I’ve never gone through a tornado but both, I would imagine and from what I’ve heard, would significantly
    reduce injuries. Safe living!

    • http://?? Joe H.

      We put an addition on our house from the basement up two stories. When we extended the basement, we didn’t completely remove the existing wall, we just cut a double wide door into it. We now have a 24 x 11 concrete room that is perfect for this kind of weather, and it is a perfect workshop for me as well!!


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