A Tornado Safe Room Can Save Your Life

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Release date: 
April 19, 2001
Release Number: 
R7-01-18

Kansas City, MO -- Spring has barely arrived and already severe winds and tornadoes have struck the Midwest. While improved warning has helped reduce the loss of life and injuries, safe refuges from these extreme storms are often not available.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in collaboration with building scientists, has developed information that can help reduce the loss of life and injury from future severe winds. When constructed according to plans, a safe room can provide protection against winds up to 250 miles per hour and objects traveling at 100 miles per hour (often present in severe storms).

Now residents of tornado-prone areas can get protection from deadly tornadoes by building safe rooms in homes and find safety in larger community shelters away from home. Safe rooms are part of an ongoing initiative of FEMA to encourage people to take measures to protect themselves before disasters occur.

Regardless of where you build a safe room in your house, including the basement, the walls and ceilings must be built so that they will protect the occupants from flying objects and falling debris and remain standing if the house is severely damaged.

Safe rooms come in a variety of sizes. To obtain further information on building safe rooms:

  • For homes, obtain a free publication FEMA's Number 320 "Taking Shelter from the Storm" with construction plans by calling 888-565-3896 or by downloading the booklet and plans from the FEMA website: www.fema.gov. Click on "Hot Topics," then "safe rooms."
  • For community shelters, such as a higher occupancy buildings (businesses, schools, nursing homes) design professionals can obtain a free publication FEMA's Number 361 "Design and Construction Guidance for Community shelters" by calling 800-480-2520 or by downloading the booklet and plans from the FEMA website: www.fema.gov. Click on "Hot Topics," then "safe rooms."

Also available is a booklet "Against the Wind" that describes inexpensive ways a homeowner can strengthen their homes against wind damage. The booklet is available by calling 800-480-2520. A video is also available.

Last Updated: 
July 19, 2012 - 23:02
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
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