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Building Science - High Winds 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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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.

P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms, Third Edition

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.

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

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 Fact Sheet

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.

Foundation Requirements and Recommendations for Elevated Homes

This Fact Sheet includes foundation requirements and recommendations for elevated homes. The Fact sheet summarizes key concepts of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), describes the typical damaged foundation types observed after Hurricane Sandy, and offers design guidance for elevating homes by retrofitting with deep foundations.

Building Science Support and Code Changes Aiding Sandy Recovery Fact Sheet

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall, devastating New Jersey and New York with tens of billions of dollars in damages. Since then, recovery activities have focused on increasing resilience of buildings and the lifeline infrastructure. Significant progress on this front, described in this fact sheet, includes:

- Deployment of the Hurricane Sandy Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) to assess damage and make recommendations
- Updated building codes at the local, State, and national levels
- Recovery projects across New Jersey, New York, and New York City to restore critical facilities and infrastructure
- Developing a culture of resilient recovery in building mitigation and risk reduction actions

Flood Hazard Elevation and Siting Criteria for Community Safe Rooms

It is critical to consider flood hazards when designing a safe room. FEMA cannot fund and does not support placing safe rooms where floodwaters could endanger occupants. This quick guide includes flood elevation and siting criteria for community safe rooms to be complaint with FEMA P-361 guidance.

Wind Provisions in the 2015 International Building Code

This document summarizes the wind-resistant provisions of the 2015 edition of the IBC.

Foundation Requirements and Recommendations for Elevated Homes

This Fact Sheet includes foundation requirements and recommendations for elevated homes. The Fact sheet summarizes key concepts of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), describes the typical damaged foundation types observed after Hurricane Sandy, and offers design guidance for elevating homes by retrofitting with deep foundations.

FEMA P-388 CD, Safe Room Resources CD

The materials on this CD are 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.

This CD contains several informative posters, maps, and other resources that can be downloaded in various formats depending on how they will be used, including high-resolution print quality and low-resolution screen quality for web use.

Flood Hazard Elevation and Siting Criteria for Residential Safe Rooms

It is critical to consider flood hazards when designing a safe room. FEMA cannot fund and does not support placing safe rooms where floodwaters could endanger occupants. This quick guide includes flood elevation and siting criteria for residential safe rooms to be compliant with FEMA P-361 guidance.

Flood Hazard Elevation and Siting Criteria for Community Safe Rooms

It is critical to consider flood hazards when designing a safe room. FEMA cannot fund and does not support placing safe rooms where floodwaters could endanger occupants. This quick guide includes flood elevation and siting criteria for community safe rooms to be complaint with FEMA P-361 guidance.

Wind Provisions of the 2018 International Existing Building Code

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

Wind Provisions of the 2018 International Residential Code

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

Potential Impact and Damage From a Tornado (Text Version)

This poster visually displays the potential impact and damage from a tornado and describes managing risk and a description of the damage that could occur. This poster is available in poster size and as a handout.

Potential Impact and Damage From a Tornado 8.5x11 Handout

This poster visually displays the potential impact and damage from a tornado and describes managing risk and a description of the damage that could occur. This poster is available in poster size and as a handout.

Potential Impact and Damage From a Tornado 36x24 Poster

This poster visually displays the potential impact and damage from a tornado and describes managing risk and a description of the damage that could occur. This poster is available in poster size and as a handout.

FEMA P-804, Wind Retrofit Guide for Residential Buildings

The purpose of this Guide is to provide guidance on how to improve the wind resistance of existing residential buildings in Mississippi and across the Gulf Coast. Although this Guide was developed to support initiatives in the Gulf Coast region, the content of this document should serve as guidance on retrofitting existing buildings for improved performance during high-wind events in all coastal regions.

Wind Provisions in the 2015 International Residential Code

This document summarizes the wind-resistant provisions of the 2015 edition of the IRC.

FEMA P-431, Tornado Protection: Selecting Refuge Area in Buildings, Second Edition

This booklet presents information that will aid qualified architects and engineers in the identification of the best available refuge areas in existing buildings.

FEMA P-431, Tornado Protection: Selecting Refuge Area in Buildings, Second Edition (Text Version)

This booklet presents information that will aid qualified architects and engineers in the identification of the best available refuge areas in existing buildings.

Best Available Refuge Area Checklist and Instructions

The Best Available Refuge Area (BARA) Checklist may also be downloaded from the link on this page.

FEMA 548, Summary Report on Building Performance: Hurricane Katrina 2005

In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, a Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) was deployed to the affected Gulf Coast areas to assess the performance of buildings. Based on the observed damage, the MAT also evaluated the adequacy of current building codes and provided suggestions to update the codes.

FEMA 548, Summary Report on Building Performance: Hurricane Katrina 2005 (Text Version)

In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, a Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) was deployed to the affected Gulf Coast areas to assess the performance of buildings. Based on the observed damage, the MAT also evaluated the adequacy of current building codes and provided suggestions to update the codes.

FEMA 490, Mitigation Assessment Team Report: Summary Report on Building Performance 2004 Hurricane Season

The purpose of this document is to summarize the observations, conclusions, and recommendations that were obtained during post-disaster assessments sponsored by the FEMA Mitigation Division in response to Florida 2004 hurricane season. More than ten rapid response teams and two Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) were deployed to document observations and provide recommendations. The rapid response data collection teams focused on coastal high water marks, inland wind effects, residential and commercial building performance, critical and essential facility performance, and mitigation program effectiveness. The MATs assessed damage to the built environment and relied on the perishable data, such as high water marks, collected by the rapid response teams to quantify flood and wind effects of the hurricanes.

FEMA 490, Mitigation Assessment Team Report: Summary Report on Building Performance 2004 Hurricane Season (Text Version)

The purpose of this document is to summarize the observations, conclusions, and recommendations that were obtained during post-disaster assessments sponsored by the FEMA Mitigation Division in response to Florida 2004 hurricane season. More than ten rapid response teams and two Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) were deployed to document observations and provide recommendations. The rapid response data collection teams focused on coastal high water marks, inland wind effects, residential and commercial building performance, critical and essential facility performance, and mitigation program effectiveness. The MATs assessed damage to the built environment and relied on the perishable data, such as high water marks, collected by the rapid response teams to quantify flood and wind effects of the hurricanes.

Community Wind Shelters: Background and Research

In areas subject to extreme-wind events, building owners, school and hospital administrators, neighborhood associations, and other individuals and organizations with responsibilities for public safety should consider building a community shelter. As outlined in this publication, wind hazards, such as those associated with tornadoes and hurricanes, vary throughout the United States. The decision to build a wind shelter will be based largely on the magnitude of the wind hazard in a given area and on the level of risk considered acceptable.

Community Wind Shelters: Background and Research (Text Version)

In areas subject to extreme-wind events, building owners, school and hospital administrators, neighborhood associations, and other individuals and organizations with responsibilities for public safety should consider building a community shelter. As outlined in this publication, wind hazards, such as those associated with tornadoes and hurricanes, vary throughout the United States. The decision to build a wind shelter will be based largely on the magnitude of the wind hazard in a given area and on the level of risk considered acceptable.

Protecting School Children from Tornadoes: State of Kansas School Shelter Initiative

As a result of the May 3, 1999 tornado event, damaged counties in Kansas received a Presidential disaster declaration and financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Because the event clearly evidenced that additional protection was needed for Kansas’ school children, work began to find a way to construct tornado shelters in Kansas schools. FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), as well as supplemental appropriations from Congress, provided funding for damage-prevention projects after the tornadoes. The State of Kansas School Shelter Initiative case study showcases several school shelter projects.

Protecting School Children from Tornadoes: State of Kansas School Shelter Initiative (Text Version)

As a result of the May 3, 1999 tornado event, damaged counties in Kansas received a Presidential disaster declaration and financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Because the event clearly evidenced that additional protection was needed for Kansas’ school children, work began to find a way to construct tornado shelters in Kansas schools. FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), as well as supplemental appropriations from Congress, provided funding for damage-prevention projects after the tornadoes. The State of Kansas School Shelter Initiative case study showcases several school shelter projects.

FEMA 338, Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) Report - Hurricane Georges in the Gulf Coast

This report presents FEMA's Building Performance Assessment Team's (BPAT) observations on the success and failure of buildings in the Florida Keys and Gulf Coast areas of the United States to withstand the wind and flood forces generated by Hurricane Georges. Recommendations to improve the building performance in future natural disasters in this area are included as well.

FEMA 338, Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) Report - Hurricane Georges in the Gulf Coast (Text Version)

This report presents FEMA's Building Performance Assessment Team's (BPAT) observations on the success and failure of buildings in the Florida Keys and Gulf Coast areas of the United States to withstand the wind and flood forces generated by Hurricane Georges. Recommendations to improve the building performance in future natural disasters in this area are included as well.

FEMA 339, Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) Report - Hurricane Georges in Puerto Rico

This report presents FEMA's Building Performance Assessment Team's (BPAT) observations on the success and failure of buildings in Puerto Rico in withstanding the wind and flood forces generated by Hurricane Georges. In addition, the seismic resistance of some of the buildings observed was assessed. Recommendations to improve building performance in future natural disasters and mitigation success stories in Puerto Rico are included.

FEMA 339, Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) Report - Hurricane Georges in Puerto Rico (Text Version)

This report presents FEMA's Building Performance Assessment Team's (BPAT) observations on the success and failure of buildings in Puerto Rico in withstanding the wind and flood forces generated by Hurricane Georges. In addition, the seismic resistance of some of the buildings observed was assessed. Recommendations to improve building performance in future natural disasters and mitigation success stories in Puerto Rico are included.

FEMA 342, Building Performance Assessment Team Report - Midwest Tornadoes of May 3, 1999

In response to the disasters caused by the May 3 tornadoes, FEMA deployed a Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT), composed of national experts in engineering, architecture, meteorology, and planning, to Oklahoma and Kansas. The mission of the BPAT was to assess the performance of buildings affected by the tornadoes, investigate losses, and describe the lessons learned. This report presents the BPATs observations, conclusions, and recommendations, which are intended to help communities, businesses, and individuals reduce future injuries and the loss of life and property resulting from tornadoes and other high-wind events.

Last updated September 17, 2020