The information below discusses the third edition of FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms, released in March 2015.
FEMA’s newly released third edition of FEMA P-361 has the most current guidance on constructing a safe room that provides near-absolute protection from the deadly winds and wind-borne debris associated with extreme-wind events for its occupants. The information presented in FEMA P-361 is the culmination of many years of FEMA-sponsored post-disaster investigations into the performance of safe rooms and storm shelters during tornadoes and hurricanes.
FEMA P-361 includes information useful for planning, designing, and operating a safe room; the target audience is safe room designers, owners, and emergency management officials. Part B of the publication is especially useful for designers, and its eight chapters correspond to the chapters of the International Code Council’s Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (ICC/NSSA, 2014), known as ICC 500. Each chapter in Part B identifies any differences between FEMA-recommended criteria and ICC 500 requirements. All safe rooms constructed with FEMA grant funds must adhere to the FEMA-recommended criteria described in Part B of FEMA P-361.
History of FEMA P-361 and ICC 500
The first edition of FEMA P-361, released in July 2000, set forth design and construction criteria for tornado and hurricane shelters where none had existed before. These criteria were the basis of many FEMA-funded safe rooms designed and constructed since 2000. The second edition was published in 2008.
FEMA also helped develop the ICC 500 standard (published by the International Code Council®/ National Storm Shelter Association®), published originally in 2008 and updated in 2014. The ICC 500-2014 incorporates much of what was presented in the first edition of FEMA P-361, and the information has been updated and codified through the ICC consensus standard process.
Although the third edition of FEMA P-361 and the ICC 500-2014 are similar, some differences remain. Part B of FEMA P-361 describes the differences between the ICC 500 requirements and FEMA’s recommended criteria. There are also differences in scope; for example, FEMA P-361 includes emergency management considerations and risk assessment commentary that are beyond the scope of ICC 500.
How do I get a copy of FEMA P-361?
You can view and download FEMA P-361 from the FEMA 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 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern Time, or fax 1-240-699-0525. You may also email your request to FEMA-Publications-Warehouse. Please provide the title, item number, publication number, and quantity of each publication, along with your name, address, zip code, and daytime telephone number.
Publication resources for safe rooms:
- FEMA P-320. Fourth Edition, 2014. Taking Shelter from the Storm, Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business. [Free]
- FEMA P-361. Third Edition, 2015. Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms. [Free]
- ICC 500. 2014. ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters. [For purchase and download]
- Highlights of ICC 500-2014 [Free]
Webpage links for safe room information:
- FEMA P-361 History and Relevant FEMA Building Science Activities
- Example Operations and Maintenance Plans
- Legacy FEMA P-361 Case Study
- Wall Sections that Passed Previous Missile Impact Tests
- Door Assemblies and Components
- Previous Missile Impact Tests for Wood Sheathing
Return to the FEMA Safe Room Main Page.
Questions? Click on the Frequently Asked Questions link to view FAQs about the 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 Saferoom@fema.dhs.gov or calling (866) 927-2104.