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Shelters, safe rooms for homes important during tornado season


The devastating tornadoes that have hit Missouri and other communities in recent years have caused many people to take a closer look at their vulnerability to nature's wrath and to make better preparations for surviving future storms.


According to Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension, having a shelter or safe room built into or near the home can help protect families from injury or death caused by the dangerous forces of extreme winds.


“All of Missouri is in Wind Zone IV, meaning wind gusts from severe storms can exceed 250 miles per hour. The number of recorded tornadoes is 5-15 per 2,470 square miles for much of the state,” said Schultheis. “Combining these factors places the entire state at a high risk level that Schultheis says warrants a shelter as the preferred method of protection.”


The shelter or safe room should be free of clutter and readily accessible from all parts of the house. It must be located in a flood-free area, well-anchored to resist overturning and uplift, and the walls, roof and door should be strong enough to resist penetration by wind-borne missiles.


“Common house construction techniques based on minimum building codes generally don’t provide adequate protection. Most Missouri counties do not have even these minimum building codes,” said Schultheis.


MU Extension publication EMW1025, Storm Shelters and Safe Rooms, provides more information and advice, links to online resources and a list of storm shelter manufacturers.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a 46-page booklet to help homeowners and builders design and build shelters that will withstand extreme wind speeds. This booklet, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room For Your Home or Small Business, includes 18 pages of construction plans and cost estimates. A free copy can be obtained by calling FEMA toll-free at 1-888-565-3896 or visiting their website at


“Whether you build a shelter or not, two important steps you can take to protect your family are to prepare an emergency plan for dealing with disaster situations and put together an emergency supply kit for home, business and each vehicle,” said Schultheis.


More information on emergency preparedness and disaster recovery is available under Emergency management on the MU Extension website.


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Last update: Thursday, September 01, 2016