Concrete Safe Rooms Save Lives
"If you don't remember anything else I say today, for goodness' sake, build a safe room in your home when you rebuild," President Clinton told residents during a visit to Del City after a storm. "We will be able to save nearly everybody if we can do this." - from USA Today: July 6, 1999
The most inherent danger to people and property during the high winds of tornadoes and hurricanes is the flying debris carried in the high winds. Carried at such intense velocity, items such as 2 by 4’s can become missiles that can cut right through a building wall and endanger the people inside.
The best way to keep your family safe during a tornado or hurricane is to build a concrete safe room inside your home. A safe room is a small, windowless room that is completely encapsulated in concrete - walls, ceiling and floor. Typically, the room would be located in a central area of the home for additional protection as well as accessibility, but can be placed on the outside wall of the home. A safe room can be incorporated into the construction of a new home, or can be retrofitted into an existing home. The advantage of a safe room over a storm cellar is that the safe room can function year-round as a usable area, such as a bathroom, closet or utility room.
Some of the most cost effective systems for building the walls of a safe room are insulating concrete forms, concrete masonry, and conventionally cast concrete. Tests conducted at Texas Tech University conclude that concrete provides the strength and mass needed to resist the high winds and flying debris of a tornado.
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PCA Helped FEMA Develop Safe Room Plans
To further help homebuilders and homeowners build economical safe rooms for new and existing homes, PCA, American Polysteel, and Lite-Form International worked together to develop safe room plans specifically for insulating concrete forms (ICFs). Up until now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) guide for safe room construction included plans for conventionally cast concrete safe rooms and reinforced concrete masonry safe rooms. The new plans include details for 4- and 6-inch flat ICF walls and 6-inch waffle grid ICF walls.
In addition, both American Polysteel and Lite-Form have developed "safe room kits" that include everything a homebuilder needs to build a safe room including walls, roof, and door. Both kits use Lite-Deck for the roof—a stay-in-place polystyrene form distributed by Lite-Form International. For additional information on safe rooms contact Polysteel at (800) 977-3676 or Lite-Form International at (800) 551-3313.
Photos by Dave Gatley/FEMA
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Safe Room Plans Available from FEMA
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a 25-page illustrated
publication, Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building A Safe
Room Inside Your House. The book outlines the basics of
safe room design including construction plans, materials, and construction
Plans for safe rooms built using reinforced concrete masonry, conventionally
cast reinforced concrete, and insulating concrete forms are included
in the book. It's free of charge and can be downloaded directly
from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site. Click
here to download.
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