Nashville, TN -- Memphis, Tenn., physician Randall Davis and his wife Teresa have seen the destruction severe weather can bring. They understand and appreciate the value of protecting themselves against such havoc; they have decided to do something about it.
The Davises are currently constructing a new home and uppermost in their minds is the inclusion of a safe room in their home, while their home is under construction.
"I've lived in Memphis most of my life," said Dr. Davis. "Teresa grew up in Natchez, Mississippi. We've seen destruction from severe storms. When we sat down to design our home, we decided to include a safe room for our family's protection. We checked the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) web site (www.fema.gov/fima/tsfs02.shtm), and found the information we needed. We ordered, free of charge, the FEMA publication, Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House.
"That booklet helped us make decisions on safe room location and construction. For accessibility, we decided to make the closet that connected our child's room to our bedroom into a safe room. The architect and builder developed the shelter area using FEMA specifications."
The booklet contains answers to questions that many homeowners and builders have about protecting themselves and their families. Included are the results of research that has been underway for more than 20 years by Texas Tech University's Wind Engineering Research Center and other wind engineering research facilities.
The booklet also provides shelter designs that illustrate how to construct a shelter underneath a new house, in the basement of a new house, or how to modify an existing house to add such a shelter. These shelters are designed to protect members of the household from the high winds expected during tornadoes and hurricanes.
FEMA officials say the recommended location for a safe room in a slab-on-grade house is a small interior room. The room is often used for non-emergency purposes. Bathrooms and large closets are a frequent choice because warning times for tornadoes can be very short, and quick access is an important factor.
Safe rooms can be built above or below ground, within a home or attached to one. They are designed to protect people from flying debris and other tornado-related hazards. Properly
equipped safe rooms can also shelter residents from intruders and other dangers.
The Davis family saved money by incorporating the safe room during new construction. The additional cost of converting a closet area to a safe room came to $1,800, including materials and labor. Total construction cost to build a safe room during new construction can range from approximately $3,000 to $6,000, depending on the foundation type and type of materials used.
The cost of building into or retrofitting an existing structure should add, generally, about 20 percent of the new-construction cost to the retrofit cost.
FEMA encourages everyone to consider the addition of a safe room with their house construction. Safe rooms are as essential to housing construction, as are bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens, especially where family safety is concerned.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.