The wry joke down here in hurricane country is that before buying a house in Florida, you should always make sure that there is plenty of leg room in the closets.
While its true that many people have – in desperation - ridden out hurricanes in their closet surrounded by mattresses, it is hardly ideal.
The protection it affords is minimal, at best.
Last week’s severe weather outbreak across the southland illustrated just how vulnerable many homes and businesses are to high winds and tornadoes. More than 300 lives were lost, and several thousand were injured.
In recent years many builders have begun offering an optional `safe room’ – designed to protect occupants during a storm - when building a new home. It is also possible to `harden’ an existing bathroom or closet to withstand 200+ MPH winds.
Either could prove to be a wise investment in your family’s safety.
FEMA has some advice for those contemplating the construction of a safe room, including detailed plans, available on their website.
First a press release from FEMA, then some links to a brochure, and to building plans.
Release Date: May 4, 2011
Release Number: 1969-020
While it may not have the allure of granite countertops or a whirlpool bathtub, a residential safe room is one rock-solid home improvement worth considering. A safe room can protect a family from the deadly high winds associated with a tornado or hurricane.
“Any time is a good time to install a safe room, but when a home undergoes restoration—that’s the best time to include a hardened bathroom or a reinforced closet,” said Mike Bolch, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in North Carolina. “It’s easier and less expensive to plan and build a safe room during a full-scale repair.”
A small interior room on the lowest living level of a home is the most practical location because warning times for tornadoes can be very short, making quick access to the safe room important.
The safe room could be described as a room within a room that will remain intact even if the surrounding house sustains major damage. The room needs to be rated to withstand winds in excess of 200 mph and flying debris that could include tree limbs, two-by-fours and concrete blocks.
The FEMA publication Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business helps home and business owners assess their risk and determine the best type of safe room for their needs. The publication also provides designs for basement, in-ground and above-ground safe rooms.
The publication can be downloaded at: www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=1536.
This from the FEMA library.
Having a safe room built for your home or small business can help provide “near-absolute protection” for you and your family or employees from injury or death caused by the dangerous forces of extreme winds such as tornadoes and hurricanes.
Taking Shelter From the Storm, Building a Safe Room For Your Home or Small Business, FEMA 320, now in its third edition, helps home or small business owners assess their risk and determine the best type of safe room for their needs.
The publication provides designs for basement, in-ground, and above-ground safe rooms. Construction plans and specifications are available in PDF format and can be downloaded from the link at the end of this page, or individually in CAD DWG or PDF at:
For additional information on content updates to this publication, go to
A safe room cannot be reasonably constructed for every home, of course. But for homes where it is practical, it can be a lifesaving preparation.
One that, quite frankly, I wish I had living down here in Hurricane country.