The term “storm shelter” is one that Oklahomans hear frequently. With the threat of tornadoes occurring multiple times a year, Oklahoma residents are usually familiar with what has proven to protect homeowners from these monstrous twisters. Even so, many people may have questions about tornado shelters, or may be interested in getting one but are unfamiliar with what they should get. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about shelters and the answers you may be looking for. 

How Safe Are Storm Shelters?

When you hear that a tornado shelter has been tested, it means a storm shelter has met specific safety standards. Tests are conducted at the Debris Impact Facility, located at the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Shelters that have passed this test are able to withstand EF5 tornadoes with winds up to 250 mph, keeping you and your loved ones safe during even the worst twisters. Old shelters, DIY shelters or shelters that are not up to current FEMA code certainly have less guarantee of safety than their verified counterparts. 

More information on the testing process of shelters and what they can protect against, is found on the National Wind Institute website.

What About Do It Yourself Storm Shelters?

For those that extremely capable with many Do-It-Yourself projects, it is recommended to let the professionals assist you in installing your new shelter. There is no way to know if DIY shelters can withstand the type of high impact tornados that tested shelters are proven to handle. 

In addition to buying specific supplies, those who opt for a DIY shelter will need to rent equipment, including digging equipment, in order to install it. The majority of DIY shelters will still run a minimum of $3,000.  

How Much Do Storm Shelters Cost?

Prices for storm shelters may vary depending on what shelter option you choose and which professionals you work with, but the common price range is between $2,400 and $8,000.

What Are the Types of Shelters?

You can choose from different types of below and above-ground shelters, made from your choice of: concrete, fiberglass or steel. As far as the best type of shelter, steel is the clear winner.

Fiberglass are only used below ground and are susceptible to cracking and leaking. They are not as strong as concrete or steel and are prone to taking damage from tornadoes.

Concrete can be done above or below ground and are very strong. The downside to anything made with concrete is that concrete tends to hold water, which can lead to cracks and leaks, however, where your shelter is located and the quality of upkeep can make a big difference in it’s longevity.. 

Steel shelters tend to be the strongest and safest choice. They are also available above and below ground and can endure the largest of tornados. They are much longer lasting than concrete or fiberglass shelters. 

What If I Get Trapped In My Storm Shelter?

An extremely important step you must take as a tornado shelter owner is to register your shelter. After a tornado, emergency responders will go from home to home to look for people who may have been trapped in their home or shelter. If you register your shelter with the city, first responders will know exactly where to look for you and your family, saving precious time. 

Most tested shelters have safety precautions to keep you from becoming trapped, as you can un-bolt the back portion of the door. If the door is blocked, it is best to let the responders help and rescue you from you shelter, since you won’t know what debris could be barricading the door. It is advised to keep a whistle in your emergency kit, to further ensure that you receive help right away. 

Keep in mind, that after a damaging tornado, crews have many homes to attend to. It may take a day or two for them to reach you. Keep your shelter stocked with fresh supplies in case this happens.  

For the Oklahoma Metro area, you can register your shelter through these sites;

Are There Ways To Save Money When Getting A Shelter?

You may be eligible for a rebate program in Oklahoma if you meet certain criteria. Soonersafe (https://www.ok.gov/OEM/saferoom/app/index.php) is a rebate program that will pick a few lucky applicants each year at random. The program can give homeowners up to $2,000 (as long as it is no more than 75% of the total cost) to install a new shelter. The money comes from unused FEMA funds, which is why there are only a few handed out yearly.

Some Tribal Nations have programs for Tribal Members to install a storm shelter in their home. For example, Chickasaw Nation, and Choctaw Nation. 

Tornados can turn deadly in an instant and are wildly unpredictable. The best way to protect yourself from disaster is by preparation. Install a storm shelter before the threat of tornado season, and keep it stocked with the necessary supplies* to keep you and your loved ones alive and well. 

*Find emergency disaster kit recommendations at the website for the Department of Homeland Security.