FEMA’s Building Science Branch of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) supplies information on designs for safe rooms and building permitting, which you will find below.
FEMA does not endorse, approve, certify or recommend any contractors, individuals, firms or products. Contractors, individuals or firms shall not claim they or their products are "FEMA approved" or "FEMA certified."
Safe Room Design and Construction
FEMA has produced specific designs for tornado and hurricane safe rooms that are set forth in FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business. FEMA has also produced design and construction guidance for residential and community safe rooms that is available in FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms.
Although FEMA P-320 and P-361 present FEMA’s guidance on the design and construction of safe rooms, FEMA does not verify or certify design calculations or products. The licensed design professional who signs the certification attests that the design or product will meet the requirements specified on the certification. All products must be properly installed for their intended use(s) only. The prescriptive plans for safe rooms provided in FEMA P-320 are not intended to be a substitute for a licensed design professional. Due to the intended function of safe rooms and site-specific conditions that need to be addressed, it is FEMA’s recommendation that a licensed design professional be involved.
In December of 2014, the International Code Council (ICC) released a new edition of the consensus standard on the design and construction of storm shelters. This standard, the ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (ICC 500), codifies many of the safe room recommendations of the early editions of FEMA P-320 and FEMA P-361. ICC 500 provides the minimum design and construction requirements for extreme wind storm shelters and has been incorporated by referenced standard into the 2009, 2012 and 2015 International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC).
Obtaining proper building permits and inspections is important for all construction. Individuals considering purchasing or installing a safe room should contact their local building official about building code requirements but should bear in mind that the extreme loads generated by tornadoes are not covered under model building code requirements. The guidance contained in FEMA P-320, FEMA P-361 or ICC 500 can all be used to address these extreme loads.
Free copy of FEMA P-320
Free copy of FEMA P-361
A copy of ICC-500 can be purchased and subsequently downloaded.