LITTLE ROCK, AR. -- This is the time for you, the Arkansas resident, to prepare for future storms and tornadoes, officials from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) announced today.
Extreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built “to code,” but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and severe storms. The purpose of a safe room or an in-ground shelter is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home. In-ground shelters are usually outside the home.
- Your basement.
- Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
- An interior room on the first floor.
As officials from ADEM explain, Arkansas homeowners who build a safe room or have an in-ground shelter installed are eligible to receive a rebate of up to $1,000 or 50 percent of the cost, whichever is less. The Arkansas Safe Shelter Program covers both above-ground and in-ground shelters. Residents who have built their shelters after January 21, 1999 may apply for the rebate. Contact ADEM at 501-730-9750 for details.
“It costs between $2,000 to $6,000 to build a safe room or storm shelter. ADEM cannot endorse any products, but we recommend you get several bids for the work,” explained Richard Griffin, the state coordinating officer with ADEM. “Several safe room and storm shelter companies are listed on the Internet. The cost varies according to the design you choose and other site considerations.”
Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room also can provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms. To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:
- The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
- The walls, ceiling, and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
- The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind
- Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room, must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.
- The Value of Early Safe Room Awareness, Page 2
Officials from ADEM recommend that your construction plans be approved by your local Building Inspector. “Make sure to have your plans signed and sealed by a registered professional engineer with structural engineering experience,” Griffin said.
Homeowners who receive a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to repair or rebuild a home damaged or destroyed by the severe storms and tornadoes that swept through Conway, Cross, Fulton, Greene, Lawrence, Randolph and White counties the first three days of April may use that loan money to construct a safe room. If the added cost of the safe room causes the repair or reconstruction to exceed the amount of the loan, the SBA may increase, under its mitigation program, the amount of the loan up to 20 percent to cover the added cost.
Arkansas has developed initiatives for the construction of residential, public, and private safe rooms, including safe rooms in hospitals, emerg...