RAPID CITY, S.D. -- In the wake of the deadly tornado that struck Salt Lake City today, disaster recovery officials in South Dakota 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 Pete Bakersky, who is heading recovery efforts on the Pine Ridge Reservation. "Safe rooms are not expensive to construct, and they can save your life."
An F-2 tornado ripped through downtown Salt Lake City today, killing at least four people and injuring more than 100. Last May, residents of Spencer, South Dakota experienced first-hand the devastating power of a tornado, as a twister moved through the area leveling most of the town's buildings and killed six people. An average of 30 tornadoes strike South Dakota every year, including the June 4 tornado which smashed homes and killed one person on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
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 $2,500 to $5,000, depending upon the specific design, materials, and local construction costs.
The complete Taking Shelter from the Storm booklet can be ordered at no cost from FEMA Publications at 1-888-565-3896. The publication with the construction plans can also be downloaded from the FEMA Web site at www.fema.gov/mit/saferoom/. "Taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family before a tornado strikes just makes good sense," said Bakersky.
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.