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FEMA P-320 - Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business

This page contains information about FEMA P-320 - Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business.

Having a safe room in 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. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built according to the guidance in this publication will have a high probability of being protected from injury or death. Our knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes is based on numerous meteorological records as well as extensive investigations of damage to structures from extreme winds. Having a safe room can also relieve some of the anxiety created by the threat of an oncoming tornado or hurricane.

All information contained in this publication is applicable to residential Cover image of FEMA P-320 - Taking Shelter from the Stormsafe rooms but may also be useful for safe rooms in small businesses. However, safe rooms in small businesses (or in residences with greater than 16 occupants) are considered community safe rooms and, therefore, must be designed with additional architectural, fire safety, ventilation and other requirements, as described in FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms and ICC 500, ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters.

Should you consider building a safe room in your home or small business to provide protection for you, your family or employees during a tornado or hurricane? This publication will help you answer this and other questions so you can decide how best to provide that protection. It includes the results of research that has been underway for more than 30 years by Texas Tech University's National Wind Institute and other wind engineering research facilities on the effects of extreme winds on buildings. Download the entire FEMA P-320 document.

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. Guidance is also provided on how to modify an existing home or small business to add a safe room in an existing space. The safe rooms discussed in FEMA P-320 are designed to provide protection for you, your family or employees from the extreme winds expected during tornadoes and hurricanes and from wind-borne debris associated with these events.

What is new in the fourth edition?

The latest edition of FEMA P-320 includes many updates and modifications including new prescriptive safe room designs that comply with the criteria presented in the recently updated FEMA P-361 and the second edition of ICC-500.

Updates to FEMA P-320 include:

  • Revised discussions on hazards, protection from hazards and the use of safe rooms
  • Guidance on safe room construction materials and selecting a safe room door
  • Updated consumer guide section with helpful information on prefabricated safe rooms
  • Updated success stories section with real-life experiences from recent events
  • Revised safe rooms plans with designs that will increase the ease of use for design professionals to integrate plans into their designs and expanded guidance on how to use the drawings, including sizing the safe rooms in the drawings, additional requirements for safe rooms in small businesses. 

You can view and download FEMA P-320 from the FEMA Resource and Document Library or order a hard copy or CD-ROM from the FEMA Distribution Center. To order this or other publications please call 1-800-480-2520 or fax 1-240-699-0525 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern Time. You may also email your request to FEMA-Publications-Warehouse.  Please provide the title, item number, short number and quantity of each publication, along with your name, address, zip code and daytime telephone number.


Free copy of FEMA P-320

Free copy of FEMA P-361

Purchase and subsequently download a copy of ICC-500

Free copy of Highlights of ICC 500-2014

FEMA Safe Room Resources

Questions? Click on the "Frequently Asked Questions" link to view FAQs about design and construction of safe rooms. If you need additional information about the design and construction of safe rooms, contact the Safe Room Helpline by emailing or calling (866) 927-2104.

Last Updated: 
08/15/2017 - 11:20