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Building Science - High Wind Publications

FEMA Building Science has developed publications and guidance to assist communities in making their buildings more resilient against the impacts of high winds. It is recommended that communities located in areas prone to high winds follow the guidance provided by FEMA to increase the resilience of buildings and structures. Following FEMA guidance results in less damages and keeps occupants safer during a high wind event. Along with increasing the resilience of buildings, it is important that communities at risk of tornados follow other FEMA recommendations such as creating safe rooms to ensure the safety of community members. 

View answers to frequently asked questions about Building Science and high winds.

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FEMA Building Science Resources to Assist with Reconstruction After an Extreme-Wind Event

FEMA has produced numerous publications detailing best practices for natural hazard mitigation associated with extreme-wind impacts. This Fact Sheet summarizes a few of the readily available publications and resources that can be used by homeowners, as well as design and construction professionals, during reconstruction following extreme-wind events.

Overview of FEMA P-804 | Wind Retrofit Guide for Residential Buildings

Protecting your property from high winds can involve a variety of actions, from inspecting and maintaining your building to installing protective devices. Most of these actions, especially those that affect the exterior shell of your building, should be carried out by qualified maintenance staff or professional contractors licensed to work in your state, county, or city. For buildings with Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS) walls, a type of wall often used for commercial buildings, one example of wind protection is inspecting and maintaining the walls.

Overview of FEMA P-499 | Homebuilder's Guide to Coastal Construction

Protecting your property from high winds can involve a variety of actions, from inspecting and maintaining your building to installing protective devices. Most of these actions, especially those that affect the exterior shell of your building, should be carried out by qualified maintenance staff or professional contractors licensed to work in your state, county, or city. For buildings with Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS) walls, a type of wall often used for commercial buildings, one example of wind protection is inspecting and maintaining the walls.

Overview of FEMA P-85 | Protecting Manufactured Homes from Floods and Other Hazards

Protecting your property from high winds can involve a variety of actions, from inspecting and maintaining your building to installing protective devices. Most of these actions, especially those that affect the exterior shell of your building, should be carried out by qualified maintenance staff or professional contractors licensed to work in your state, county, or city. For buildings with Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS) walls, a type of wall often used for commercial buildings, one example of wind protection is inspecting and maintaining the walls.

FEMA P-2062, Guidelines for Wind Vulnerability Assessments of Existing Critical Facilities

Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 as well as other recent storms, including Hurricane Michael in 2018, resulted in extensive wind damage to critical facilities in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida. This manual provides design professionals with guidelines for assessing the vulnerability of critical facilities to wind pressure, wind-borne debris, and wind-driven rain. The manual incorporates observations and lessons learned from recent hurricanes, current building code requirements, past hurricanes, and other historic high wind events. The guidelines apply to critical facilities both within and outside hurricane-prone regions and to critical facilities in tornado-prone regions.

The results of an assessment can be used by building owners; design professionals; entities that award repair, reconstruction, or mitigation grants; as well as state, local, tribal, and territorial government agencies developing mitigation plans.

Residential Tornado Safe Room Doors Fact Sheet

Residential safe rooms are becoming more popular as families seek protection from violent tornadoes. Like any other room, safe rooms must be accessed through an opening or door. Just as the walls and roof of a safe room are designed and built to protect against extreme winds and wind-borne debris, so must the safe room door. When careful selection and installation of the safe room door assembly is overlooked, the safe room door opening can leave occupants at great risk of injury or death during tornadoes. This fact sheet provides graphics and useful information about selecting adequate door assemblies for residential safe rooms. The December 2018 version of this fact sheet reflects the updates made to ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (ICC® 500) from the first to second edition.

Community Tornado Safe Room Doors Installation and Maintenance Fact Sheet

Safe room door assemblies are one of the most important components of a safe room because they must provide the same level of protection as the walls and roof, yet also remain functional for quick access. This fact sheet provides information about the selection, installation, and maintenance of safe room door assemblies for community safe rooms. It is recommended that safe room door assembles are regularly maintained to protect their functionality and maximize their life span. The fact sheet covers what should be checked and how often, as well as several solutions related to the maintenance of safe room door assemblies. While the fact sheet discusses community safe room door assemblies, some of the information in the fact sheet is pertinent to owners of residential safe rooms.

FEMA Building Science Resources to Assist with Reconstruction After a Hurricane (Spanish)

FEMA has produced numerous publications detailing best practices for natural hazard mitigation associated with hurricane impacts. This flyer summarizes a few of the readily available publications and resources that can be used by homeowners as well as design and construction professionals during reconstruction following hurricanes.

FEMA Building Science Resources to Assist with Reconstruction After a Hurricane

FEMA has produced numerous publications detailing best practices for natural hazard mitigation associated with hurricane impacts. This flyer summarizes a few of the readily available publications and resources that can be used by homeowners as well as design and construction professionals during reconstruction following hurricanes.

Wind Provisions of the 2018 International Building Code

This document summarizes the wind-resistant provisions of the 2018 International Building Code, International Existing Building Code, and International Residential Code.

Wind Provisions in the 2015 International Existing Building Code 

Mitigation Best Practice - New Rest Areas Designed with Tornado Safety in Mind

This story tells how the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is constructing new rest area facilities throughout the state to provide more services and a safer experience for travelers. Not only are the new facilities equipped with surveillance cameras, air-conditioned and heated restrooms, as well as an assisted-use restroom, they have tornado shelters.

P-388 Safe Room Resources

This document is intended to help communities mitigate damage or loss from tornadoes and other extreme-wind events, and provide public information resources for conveying the importance of safe room construction. This is part of FEMA’s ongoing mitigation effort to lessen the impact that disasters have on people and property.

FEMA P-361: Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms

This publication presents important information about the design and construction of community and residential safe rooms that will provide protection during tornado and hurricane events. The third edition of FEMA P-361 presents updated and refined criteria for safe rooms compared to the second edition’s 2008 criteria. This edition also features clarified guidance and revised commentary to reflect 6 more years of post-damage assessments and lessons learned, including those based on many safe rooms directly impacted by tornadoes.

FEMA P-361, History and Relevant FEMA Building Science Activities

This document will contain the background and history of FEMA P-361 as well as the tornado and hurricane events that were researched to inform the necessary criteria for safe room design.

FEMA L-780, Building Science for Disaster-Resistant Communities: Wind Hazard Publications

This brochure provides readers with a quick summary of publications that will help them prepare for and mitigate against wind hazards. The Building Science Branch develops and produces technical guidance and tools focused on fostering a disaster-resistant built environment. Located within FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration’s (FIMA’s) Risk Reduction Division, the Building Science Branch supports FIMA's mission to reduce risk to life and property by providing state-of-the-art technical hazard mitigation solutions for buildings.

FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business Highlights of ICC 500-2014, ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters

Having a safe room built for your home or small business can help provide near-absolute protection for you and your family or employees from injury or death caused by the dangerous forces of extreme winds such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Taking Shelter from the Storm, Building a Safe Room For Your Home or Small Business, FEMA P-320, now in its fourth edition, helps home or small business owners assess their risk and determine the best type of safe room for their needs. FEMA P-320 includes safe room designs and shows you and your builder/contractor or local design professional how to construct a safe room for your home or small business. Design options include safe rooms located inside or outside of a new home or small business.

Highlights of ICC 500-2014, ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters

ICC 500-2014: The International Code Council (ICC) 500-2014 is a referenced standard in the 2015 International Building Code® (IBC) and the 2015 International Residential Code® (IRC). Buildings or spaces designated for use as a shelter from tornadoes and/or hurricanes within the scope of the IBC and IRC must conform to the requirements in ICC 500. Highlights of ICC 500-2014 cover Administration and Oversight; Structural Design Criteria; Occupancy, Means of Egress, and Access; Fire Protection, Essential Features, and Accessories; and Test Methods. The report also covers significant changes made to the 2014 edition compared to the 2008 edition of ICC 500. For anyone who wants a better understanding of ICC 500-2014, please refer to ICC 500-2014 Standard and Commentary: ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters which was published in 2016 and addresses each section of the standard in more depth.

ICC 500-2014 is also a referenced standard in FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business (2014) and FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms (2015).

Foundation and Anchoring Criteria for Safe Rooms

Prefabricated safe rooms are becoming more popular as people seek protection from tornadoes. Due to the extreme forces safe rooms may experience, there are very specific foundation and anchoring requirements that, if overlooked, can leave occupants at risk of injury or death during tornadoes. This fact sheet provides graphics and useful information about the foundation and anchoring criteria in FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms, Third Edition, which uses ICC 500, Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters, as a referenced standard.

Residential Safe Room Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provide information about residential safe rooms and explains that a safe room is a room or structure specifically designed and constructed to resist wind pressures and wind-borne debris impacts during an extreme-wind event, like tornadoes and hurricanes, for the purpose of providing life-safety protection.

Last updated December 9, 2020