COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- In the wake of the deadly tornadoes that struck Oklahoma, Kansas and South Dakota during the past month, disaster recovery officials in Colorado are urging residents in tornado-prone areas to construct a "safe room" in their home.
"A safe room is essentially a roomy closet built to withstand extreme winds such as occur in tornadoes," explained Federal Coordinating Officer Scott Logan, who is heading recovery efforts for the Colorado flooding. "Safe rooms are not expensive to construct, and they can save your life."
On Friday, June 4, a tornado ripped through a small town on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, smashing homes and killing at least one person. An average of 40-50 tornadoes strike Colorado every year, including one as recent as last week in Weld County.
A safe room can be constructed either above or below ground, with either reinforced concrete or wood-and-steel walls anchored to a concrete slab foundation or floor. In a 25-page illustrated booklet titled Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) outlines the basics of in-house safe room design including construction plans, building specifications and cost estimates. Safe rooms built to these design specifications provide protection from the impact of flying debris and winds of up to 250 miles per hour. Construction costs typically range from $2,000 to $4,000, depending upon the specific design, materials, and local construction costs.
"Taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family before a tornado strikes just makes good sense," said State Coordinating Officer Tommy Grier with the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.
The complete Taking Shelter from the Storm booklet can be ordered at no cost from FEMA Publications at 1-800-480-2520. The publication without the construction plans can also be downloaded from the FEMA Web site at www.fema.gov/fima/tsfs01.shtm.
FEMA remains committed to encouraging individuals and communities to act before a disaster strikes. Taking Shelter from the Storm was developed by FEMA in collaboration with the Wind Engineering Research Center of Texas Tech University. The safe room designs draw on 25 years of field research as well as laboratory testing. The safe room project is part of an ongoing FEMA initiative called Project Impact, Building Disaster Resistant Communities.