Building A Safe Room Saves Lives

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Release date: 
June 2, 2011
Release Number: 
1979-025

NASHVILLE, Tenn. --The tornadoes and high winds that have caused so many deaths this year make it all too obvious why a "safe room" is a good idea. Although a home may be built “to code,” that does not mean it can withstand the forces from extreme weather events. A safe room is a refuge that can save lives.

You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home:

  • Your basement.
  • Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
  • An interior room on the first floor.

Safe rooms built below ground level offer the best protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room can also provide the necessary safeguards. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid taking in water during the heavy rains or high water tables that often accompany windstorms.

Here are some considerations 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.

For more information on building a safe room, visit the FEMA website at www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/saferoom. For FEMA P-320 book “Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business,” call 800-480-2520.

A safe room may be built into new housing or added inside or outside to existing structures.  For more information on safe rooms, go to www.FEMA.gov.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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