Main Content

Building a Safe Room Helps Protect Your Family Against Tornado-Force Winds

Release date: 
July 29, 2008
Release Number: 

LINCOLN, Neb.-- The tornadoes and high winds that devastated Nebraska recently are reasons why a "Safe Room" is a good idea. The chances for survival or avoiding serious injuries increase when a Safe Room is used for shelter.

Data from the Disaster Center, which compiles statistics on a number of subjects, reports Nebraska ranks fifth among the states in tornado activity. The frequency of tornadoes is one of the reasons the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend Safe Rooms. ?

"Considering adding a Safe Room to a new home or an existing home is a very good move for Nebraskans," said NEMA State Coordinating Officer Cindy Newsham. "Every year we have the potential for windstorms and tornadoes. Having a Safe Room is an investment in a family's peace of mind; they can save lives."

Safe rooms built below ground level offer the best protection, but a Safe Room built in a first-floor interior room can also provide the necessary safeguards. Below-ground Safe Rooms must be designed to avoid taking in water during the heavy rains that often accompany windstorms.

Here are the things to consider when building a Safe Room:

  • The Safe Room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
  • The walls, ceiling, and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • The connections between all parts of the Safe Room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
  • Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the Safe Room must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the Safe Room.

? According to FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn, homeowners who receive a disaster assistance loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to repair or rebuild a damaged or destroyed home may be authorized to use a portion of the loan for constructing a Safe Room. "The cost of between $2500 to about $6000 is well worth it to protect your family," Nunn said. ?

For more information on building a Safe Room, visit the FEMA website at /mit/saferoom/ ??or order free publication FEMA-320, "Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House. Call 1-888-565-3896 to order.

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:30