Tornado 'Safe Room' Design Plans Available

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Release date: 
May 10, 1999
Release Number: 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Residents of tornado-prone areas can get information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about how to build a "safe room" in their homes that can provide protection against deadly tornadoes. The 25-page illustrated FEMA publication, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House , outlines the basics of in-house safe room shelter design, including construction plans, materials and construction cost estimates. "The safe room project is part of an ongoing FEMA initiative to encourage people to take measures to protect themselves and their property before disasters occur," FEMA Director James Lee Witt said. "When constructed according to the plans, the safe room can provide protection against winds of up to 250 miles per hour and projectiles travelling at 100 miles an hour."

Developed in collaboration with the Wind Engineering Research Center of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, Taking Shelter from the Storm draws on 25 years of field research by the Texas Tech researchers. Their work has included studies of the performance of buildings following dozens of tornadoes throughout the United States and laboratory testing on the performance of building materials and systems when impacted by airborne debris. The National Association of Homebuilders Research Center evaluated the designs for construction methods, materials and costs. The shelters are designed with saving lives as the primary consideration.

"Regardless of where you build your safe room in your house, the walls and ceiling must be built so that they will protect you from missiles and falling debris and remain standing if your house is severely damaged," Witt said. The safe room designs in Taking Shelter from the Storm specify building materials and combinations of building materials that will resist penetration of flying objects in extreme winds.

Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House along with the construction plans (FEMA Publication 320) can be ordered at no cost from FEMA Publications at 1-888-565-3896. The publication, but not the construction plans, can be downloaded from the FEMA Web site (

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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