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Tornado Safe Rooms Save Lives

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Release date: 
December 18, 2002
Release Number: 

Nashville, TN -- Tennesseans rebuilding their homes after November's devastating tornadoes can make them safer, should other storms blow their way in the future.

"Including a safe room as part of a rebuilding plan can offer extra protection for families caught in a tornado's path," said Gracia B. Szczech, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) disaster recovery manager in Tennessee. "A safe room offers both physical and emotional protection, especially for families who have weathered a violent storm before."

Safe Rooms are heavily fortified closets or basement rooms that have been designed to withstand wind loads that could seriously damage the surrounding structure. The purpose is to give people a safe place to go and time to get there as a storm approaches.

FEMA and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency can assist by offering free blueprints that "homeowners can hand to their contractor," said John White, Director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. "A small investment on your part could pay big dividends for you and your family should severe weather strike."

There are low-interest loans available through the U.S. Small Business Administration that can be used for this type of measure for those who qualify.

Safe Rooms were developed for new dwellings, but existing structures can be retrofitted to include them. Because Safe Room plans can be incorporated into the home construction, this is easier and less costly than retrofitting. Typically, the cost of the extra materials needed to complete a safe room is between three to four thousand dollars. The materials, such as sheet metal, anchors and wood, are available or can be ordered at your local home improvement store.

While these measures can't guarantee that a structure won't be damaged in a storm as powerful as a tornado, the odds for survival of people and property will be increased.

Hazard mitigation in regions subject to tornadoes includes such reasonable measures as tying roofs, walls and foundations together as a unit so they are less likely to separate in high winds and peel away. Conventional methods rely mostly on gravity to hold these elements in place.

"We know that storms will hit the state again, but Tennesseans don't have to suffer the same losses," said White. "Taking some small steps today can stop this from happening time after time."

To order a copy of this booklet and the accompanying construction plans and specifications, call 1-888-565-3896 and request a copy of publication FEMA 320 or download them from FEMA's website at: /mit/saferoom.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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