Tornado Safe Room

Discussion in 'Remodel Forum & Blog' started by fullysprinklered, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. fullysprinklered

    fullysprinklered Active Member

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    Jun 15, 2014
    Occupation:
    self-employed plumber-electrician doing residentia
    Location:
    Georgia
    I've built a 6x8 foot safe room in my basement. This would be for shelter in the event of a tornado or other bad weather. I've pretty much doubled up all the rafters and studs and wrapped the whole thing with two layers of 3/4 in plywood. Structure is not an issue, I'm overdoing everything.

    I want to know where to take it from here. I'll take casual or anecdotal comments, no problem. Wouldn't mind hearing from folks with knowledge or experience with tornado shelters. Next phase for me is to build and install the door and do something towards ventilating the structure for a worst case scenario.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Stuff

    Stuff Member

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    Mar 7, 2013
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    Pennsylvania
    Just a thought: Should the door open in or out? Stronger if opens out but more difficult to open if something falls on it from the outside.
     
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  4. JRC3

    JRC3 Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2017 at 3:59 PM
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    Sep 25, 2013
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    IL
    How about some long life batteries that could charge/power your cellphone. Maybe check cell coverage from down there.
     
  6. JRC3

    JRC3 Member

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    Sep 27, 2016
    Location:
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    A walkie-talkie/CB too. If a cell tower gets taken out they would trailer in a temporary, but it would take a little time and may not have the same coverage.

    And an IFAK (individual first aid kit), I keep one in my range bag. Or at very least have a tourniquet. Probably wouldn't be bad to have some safety glasses and dusk masks too. I think I'd pack up some storage containers that are strong enough to be sat on for a long period. But I guess you would have a bunk bed or something like that.
     
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Also provide some way to pump out water in case a main breaks and floods the basement with no way to get out until they remove all the house debris from the basement.
     
  8. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    You don't need ventilation for a tornado-room. A tornado is a short-term event, and the pressure differences DURING that event (in say, a direct hit) would pull a lot of air through even the tightest weather stripping even if you TRIED to make it air tight. A hurricane event could have duration time of hours though.

    Doors that open in can't be blocked by debris on the other side, and you can use castle gate style beams & hooks to prevent it from blowing inward.
     
  9. JRC3

    JRC3 Member

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    S.W. Ohio
    Boy, a cordless reciprocating saw could be a good thing. Not sure about keeping it's batteries in the room long term. And it's not like you're gonna go looking for batteries in the event of an emergency.

    That Ryobi stuff is inexpensive. I actually picked up a set as a backup to my good tools. The batteries are high capacity and they make radio that also has a USB port for charging things like phones. I use the radio all the time. It does not charge the batteries, btw.

    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Ryobi-ON...-Wireless-Technology-Tool-Only-P742/205754091
    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Ryobi-ONE-18-Volt-High-Capacity-LITHIUM-Battery-2-Pack-P122/204321540
     
  10. Bmorreng

    Bmorreng New Member

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    You think structure isn't the issue but it probably is. Just doubling everything up is no guarantee that you and your family will be safe. Please google FEMA 320 and there you can download the publication and safe room plans for Residents and Small Businesses. Your safe room size with wood framing is an option in the plans. Pay attention to the connectors required between all the framing members to transfer the load from the joists through the walls and into the foundation. You cannot just nail together the framing like typical construction or it will fail in the event of an EF5 tornado. Also 2 layers of 3/4" plywood is not enough to stop a 15 lb 2x4 at 100 MPH, which is the missile design criteria for safe rooms. You also need to add a layer of steel and use a specific nailing pattern. This information is included in the plans reference above. Also ventilation is important, don't let the other post make you think otherwise. Recommended ventilation and detailing how to do it is also in the plans reference above. Also foundation requirements are in the publication. Now the door, you will want to purchase a door that is designed to meet the criteria in FEMA 361, the is the guideline for Community Saferooms. It is the same design criteria as FEMA 320, but doors are labeled as 361 and not 320. They are expensive, but prices have been dropping, and you will probably have to order as I have not seen any retailers that sell them. Do not make the mistake of buying the heaviest steel door at Lowe's, it will fail during an event. If you have questions about FEMA 320, FEMA has a hotline you can call specifically about building a safe room in your house. Please note the information above is for a safe room that is designed for an EF5 tornado, if you modify the criteria I would recommend having a structural engineer with experience in safe rooms reviewing your changes. Otherwise your safety may be jeopardized during an EF5. Sincerely, The Structural Engineer that designed the safe rooms for FEMA 320.

    P.S. Notify your local Emergency Management office that you have a safe room and where it is located so they can search for you, a properly designed door could open either way and have a whistle in there to signal for help. The FEMA publications have a list of recommended items to keep in the safe room.
     
  11. fullysprinklered

    fullysprinklered Active Member

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    Damn, Boomerang, just had to drag out the rule book, didn't you.

    Seriously, I appreciate all the input from everyone. Good information all round.

    One more thing for now, I haven't fastened this little dungeon to the floor yet, but I'm considering shooting it to the slab with the .22 cal nail gun. Maybe jacking the whole thing up and squeezing liquid nails under the floorplate in addition to that.
     
  12. Erico

    Erico Member

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    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Sharp hatchet and or ax. Whistle. Cell phone that works.

    Lots of overhead beams.
     
  13. fullysprinklered

    fullysprinklered Active Member

    Joined:
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    Occupation:
    self-employed plumber-electrician doing residentia
    Location:
    Georgia
    I visited FEMA 320 today. Lots of information there; quite a bit I didn't want to know. Looks like my little wooden box in the basement will only be a quiet place for one to kiss one's ass goodbye before the F5 rolls in. FEMA standards are pretty high.

    How high you may ask? If I read it right, after the Joplin outbreak FEMA spent 900 million dollars to install 25k safe rooms in private homes in that area. That's $36,000 a pop. I'm in the $900 range so far, so I need to kick it up a notch it seems.

    I like the camping toilet, the axe, and the whistle. They're going on the list

    I'll be adding metal to the framing and probably a more robust type of fastener to secure the structure to the slab. The box is up against the foundation wall on the dirt side of the excavation, btw. The door is under construction.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017 at 4:14 PM
  14. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    IL
    The odds of an F5 within 50 miles of your house is minimal. The odds against an F5 500 ft from your house are astronomical. And given a tornado, that 2x4 flying at your shelter in the basement don't seem too high even if we presume a tornado.
     
  15. fullysprinklered

    fullysprinklered Active Member

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    self-employed plumber-electrician doing residentia
    Location:
    Georgia
    I like the way you do statistics, Reach. The chance of you buying a lotto ticket is probably zero. Just to tack on another layer of improbability to the equation, that 2x4 might hit my little dungeon flat-wise, doing minimal damage. Sort of brings to mind that frozen chicken cannon they used to test airplane windshields.
     
  16. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    You are right.

    I wonder how people who play the lotto can take the risk of flying somewhere.
     
  17. fullysprinklered

    fullysprinklered Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2014
    Occupation:
    self-employed plumber-electrician doing residentia
    Location:
    Georgia
    Flying disaster statistics kill me. "Ok, more people die in car accidents than in plane crashes". Well, how many people die from driving their car through a flock of geese, running out of gas, fouled spark plug, and so on. It's a totally different scale.
     
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