Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tornado and Bomb Shelters Revisited

            This week in the United States, no fewer than 35 people died protecting their loved ones from tornadoes which appeared in parts of the American South.  This storm will be in my neck of the woods later this afternoon.
            In view of this, I am reprising the information from two posts I made two years ago, which focus on families who might consider a storm shelter, if they live in an area without a basement or simply live in a home without one.

            I don't have the time this morning to recheck the prices or even the existence of the companies listed, but most of these companies are still in operation, though the product lines and prices have changed.

         Stay safe everyone.

Excerpted from the original post:   Examining Bomb Tornado and Security Shelters
first posted on  April 18, 2012

This is the header from the Security Disasters website.  Scroll right to see entire picture.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
         With a number of deaths occurring this week following tornadoes in Kansas this week, I am receiving questions once again, about shelters.  Before investing a huge sum in such a thing, we all need to do a great deal of research.  We need to make sure that we tailor our responses to the reasonable risks in our area.  I think it unwise to take a second mortgage for an emergency shelter when the fortification of a basement, or a storm cellar might not only be cheaper,  but might financially allow the stocking of more supplies, broadening the overall preparedness of a family.

                  Still, I have promised to mention, some of the companies who will provide emergency shelters. Perhaps a discussion of these, will give you your own ideas.

                 Security Disaster Shelters is a Silverthorne, Colorado  company which is forty years old.
They specialize in the fabrication of steel structures for the purpose of egress from a home,  blast valve sleeves, hatches, blast door components etc.  They also build single and multi-unit emergency shelters.  There is value in visiting the offices and meeting with the people who make such structures, and so I will include many of these contractors so that you may talk to several.

           Security Disaster Shelters
        (970) 468-2125

      They are also associated with

We profiled on another post, so all I will do here, is provide their website:


Our prior post which discussed their company is here: d-about-construction.html


  Deep Earth Bunker is a company which specializes in the creation of everything from tsunami pods, to safe rooms, tornado safety shelters.  Their designs carry a Professional Engineer stamp, who also has a Ph D.  They also can fire proof, and bullet proof existing structures. They claim to be able to provide alternatives on lower budgets also.  They will discuss projects anywhere in the world.



This is the sleeping area of just one of their underground structures.

  Radius Engineering  designs and constructs a variety of in ground structures for worldwide clients. They are a US Dept of Defense contractor who can build anything you need.  They are Texas based.  They can provide pre-made shelters or manufacture these on site.

This is an installation of one of their ready-made units.

Phone: 972.552.2484
Fax: 866.503.3854                    

(6 Ft W x 10 Ft L X 6 Ft H) Seating up to 18 people
*Actual shelter shown, to be installed 100% below ground.
 Exterior colored paint for advertising purposes only.

  Many people who have contacted me lately, aren't looking for a bomb shelter, or hidden shelter per se, as much as they are looking for a tornado shelter, as they have no basement.

Here are some companies who can help with this issue:

Tornado Shelters Inc. for a short period have free delivery anywhere in the US.   They can provide shelters which are focused on tornado sheltering for 10-40 people.  These shelters cost anywhere from $3,000. US to about $17,000. US, and are a great value.

The above prices reflect cash purchase pricing.
Call and ask about our
"Rent To Own" Program!
Payments starting as low as $199.00 per month.      214-686-3696


This excellent information found within the two sets of two undulating lines, came from:

Considerations to keep in mind when looking at commercially made underground shelters:
  • What kind of material is used in its manufacture? Shelters may be made of concrete, steel, fiberglass, or other materials. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, for both installation and long-term use.
  • What style would best suit our needs and situation? There are storm shelters that are meant to be built into a new home, there are storm shelters that are meant to be installed in an existing home, there are storm shelters that are meant to be installed in the ground adjacent to a home. Some manufacturers are marketing "double duty" shelters, that can be used for valuables or extra storage area.
  • If you live in an area where you are affected by hurricanes, you will want to use the shelter for protection from them as well. So you will need to consider the possibility of storm surge in determining whether or not you want an underground or partially underground shelter.
  • How thick is the fiberglass/steel/concrete? Thick enough to withstand the stresses that will undoubtedly be put on it whether there is a tornado or not?
  • Were engineers involved with the design or is this an offshoot of another business that makes a different product that is not subject to the kind of stresses a storm shelter has?
  • What sizes are available?
  • How many people can fit comfortably into the shelter?
  • What provision is made for seating?
  • What provision is made for lighting?
  • What provision is made for ventilation, especially if the door is blocked for several hours?
  • Is there storage space for emergency supplies like water, a first aid kit, etc?
  • Does the entry to the shelter open outward, inward, or slide sideways?
  • Is there provision for getting out if the door is blocked or a tree falls on it?
  • How high is the water table in your area, and what provision is there to keep the shelter in position? If you have a high water table, you don't want water leaking into the shelter, nor do you want it bobbing up out of the ground.
  • If I live on a flood plain that sees frequent high water, what provision has been made to keep flood water from entering the shelter?
  • Is the shelter seamless, or are there seams that might allow water or soil in?
  • How deeply does the soil freeze? If you live in a northern climate, you don't want the frost in the ground buckling or cracking the sides or forcing the shelter out of the ground little by little.
  • How far down is the bedrock in your area? Shallow soils above bedrock may add considerably to the installation cost, although it doesn't prevent you from installing an underground shelter.
  • Shelters may be partially sunk into the ground, then banked with soil. What is the cost of drawing in additional dirt to bank a storm cellar that is only half underground?
  • What is the basic cost of the shelter?
  • Can I have it shipped here and install it myself with local help?
  • What "accessories" are available and what is the cost of each?
  • What is the cost of installation if we have to drill through rock to put it underground?
  • What is the cost to ship it to my location? The proximity to a dealer is often THE determining factor in choosing a shelter! Fortunately, there are a number of manufacturers with dealers in many states, so the choices now are better than they were a few years ago.
  • What is the installation cost if there is no bedrock?
  • How long a warranty is provided, and what does it cover?
  • What circumstances might negate that warranty?
  • What if I have a problem with it a few years from now--what kind of support do the company offer?
  • Are there additional costs I haven't asked about, and if so, what are they?
  • What is the amount of time it will take to complete the installation process?
  • Will unwelcome guests like rodents, snakes, scorpions, etc, be able to get into the shelter and either live or even worse, die there?
  • What kind of monthly/yearly maintenance is required or suggested?
  • How long has the company been in business? The longer the company has been in business, the more likely it is that they have created a good product and stand behind it. And the more likely they are still going to be around if you do have problems.
  • Ask for the names of previous customers that have shelters and speak to them about the performance of the product.
And ask yourself:
  • Are there underground pipes, conduits, gas lines, sewer lines, or cables that will have to be considered in or near the location you want to put your shelter?
  • Will their location have a part in determining which shelter is possible?
  • Do I want to consider investing in a larger shelter, and purchasing it jointly with a neighbor(s)? Is the neighbor going to be there permanently--is it another family member--might be factors here.
The FEMA site now has a document you can download on the performance criteria for tornado shelters. It is worthwhile reading! You can download it in Microsoft Word format here.

However, this is a good time to remind everyone that there are always "companies" that rush in after a disaster to take advantage of the victims of that disaster. It is sad but true. After Hurricane Andrew struck southern Florida, trucks crammed with jugs of tap water pulled into town, charging exhorbitant prices for something that, a day or so before, was not even considered valuable. After the ice storm struck Quebec, Canada in January, 1998, the same kind of thing happened. We heard of one person buying a whole truck-load of generators, then trying to peddle them to power-less Canadians at twice the price. There are companies that have products that can be "turned into" storm shelters. They have jumped into the shelter business, adapting these products somewhat. So go by the old adage, "Let the buyer beware!" If you have already decided that you are going to buy a shelter, ask the hard questions before you invest--because it really IS an investment.


The Tornado Risk Map shows the areas in which you may need to seek shelter.  You should do your own research.  Is your home or your own basement sufficient in a tornado ?


A final word from Jane,

      If you do determine that you need some type of a tornado or bomb protective structure, do not be rushed. Consider carefully all the aspects of this decision above, and consider your own finances as well. Make sure that you know what type of maintenance will be necessary for such a structure. I know some of you feel pressured to protect your families from this years tornado season, but remember, even if you purchase it, and make the decision today, it must be installed, and your family still need to stock it, and know under what conditions it should be used.  It would be unwise to spend a lot of money and find that you need something a little different.  Make sure that you complete your thinking before ordering.  One thing that does make such a purchase a little easier to swallow is that it IS a capital improvement to your home, and in many places, it is a purchase that can be added to the purchase price of your home, and that you may get back when it is time to sell.


And: Reprised from my post here More Information on Tornado and Bomb Shelters, which first aired here on December 9, 2012 


        I remember writing in Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness that most people have no particular need for a bunker.   Unless you are in an area in which tornadoes are common, then your preparation is probably better spent looking at ways to shelter in place or toward family evacuation.  A few families would benefit from a storm shelter.

           So back in August, I wrote a post which touched on storm and bomb shelters, and gave some contact information for some of the companies who manufacture and install these types of structures.

Please take a look at this:

            Since that time, a lot of people have asked me about these, and have wanted additional information.
First off, let me say that it is extremely important to learn all you can about such structures if you are considering one.  Ask yourself if you can afford such a thing, and also if the money wouldn't better be spent elsewhere in your preps.   In addition, a mention on this blog constitutes a mention only.  A mention in this or the prior post on bomb or disaster shelters does not constitute an endorsement of any kind.

  It is essential to do your own research and make your own decisions.

             These are some companies that specialize in tornado or bomb shelters or saferooms.
 I have not included fiberglass structures because I am aware that as buried structures, they may crack.

Cozy Caverns                                         

     Cozy Caverns builds custom built all metal storm shelters, which are sold nationwide.  They are based in Arkansas.  These are extremely heavy structures which are designed for families who wish to sit to ride out a storm.

This is the interior of a cozy cavern structure. The benching is part of the structure.

    These structures range from about $4500 up, but they do sell some that you may paint yourself and these afford you a substantial savings.   They can produce the shelter and install it in Arkansas, but the installation and anchoring, which can be quite expensive, they cannot do for you outside their home state.  This means that you must find a qualified installer.  This company always has a waiting list for their product. They also have financing through Iberia Bank in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Jarrell Storm Shelters                                       

      This company produces storm shelters within the great state of Texas.
     Check out their website should you or other family reside in Texas.


Utah Shelter Systems                                      

       Utah Shelter Systems has been in business since 1984 and builds a corrugated metal structure which is designed to be buried. It has entrances which can be accessed by handicapped individuals and it can be completely customized.

        The least expensive structure is about $51,000.   Many of these structures come with air filtration and other devices.  Blast doors can also be ordered.   These are designed to be "All hazard shelters".


  F5 Storm Shelters and Safe Rooms                               

         This company builds military grade structures intended for governments, churches, daycares, schools etc.  They build primarily metal structures and have abandoned concrete which they say develop mold and seep water when buried.

This option is directly quoted from their website:

We are now offering an above ground shelter on a lease to own bases.  This is a 7' tall, 6' wide, and 8' long shelter.  We will charge $3,100.00 down at the time you order the shelter.  We will then build the shelter and deliver it for $2.05 per mile one way from Baskin, Louisiana, 71295, to your location.  We install the shelter as specified by our structural engineer.  The shelter and installation is done where it meets or exceeds FEMA requirements.  Your total cost at this time has been $3,100.00 down and $2.05 per mile for delivery.  This can be done with cash, check, or credit card.  After the installation is complete, you pay $225.00 per month for 48 months.  First note is due 30 days from the day we install.  You must be the land owner to order the shelter.  


     A purveyor of all types of shelters is

  They are the owners and manufacturers of the shelter which is pictured at the top of the page, which is actually fiberglass.  They also had an interesting caution on their website, which reads:

<<     Building permits are required within most city limits. Do NOT let anyone install a shelter on your property without a building permit if your local government requires it. The city has the legal right to have you remove your shelter or require you to get a permit after the fact if you have a shelter installed without a building permit. This is important if you ever plan to sell your home.>>

       This was particularly interesting to me because no one I know in the country has bothered to get a building permit, as they wanted their structure to be completely secret.

       Key Point: 
Again, if you have a need for one of these, do your research fully and do not allow yourself to be rushed.  You want your decision to be the best one possible for yourself and your family.


lotta joy said...

Tornadoes, as like any disaster, the rich will survive comfortably while the lucky poor ones will survive with hardship. My dad, AFTER building our house, realized we needed shelter. That poor man took a circular saw to the kitchen floor, and - with shovel and bucket, dug out from under the house. Poured concrete, and made a cellar - with a trapdoor in the kitchen floor we covered with a rug. I CHERISHED the grooves in that floor that he made with a wheelbarrow, hauling out the dirt.

He also kept an ax, crowbar, and shovel in the cellar. In case the house fell IN, he would have gotten us out no matter what. HOW I miss his "can do - will do" attitude.

After many years, that cellar still gave me the creeps. lol. But right next to it was a dry cistern that he also made a door to. WHY? We had the PERFECT place to store food and everything we could need, in case of an emergency. No zombies were going to know where we were. lol

I'm sure my claw marks are still visible in the yard that I made when I had to leave that house and move. That house was truly my dad.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

Have a look at this but don't think root cellar, thing shelter where you can also store food, the perfect combination!

JaneofVirginia said...

What a beautiful memory of such a loving Dad. Thanks for posting.

JaneofVirginia said...

This takes someone with some strength and some skill, but it's an excellent idea for a smaller family. I had not seen this particular article before. Thanks for posting.

Practical Parsimony said...

Luckily, I have a huge basement with one-foot thick rock walls on two sides. There ARE windows on those walls, but one wall is just far back with the century+ house against it. That is where I would go. The UA student died because he took shelter against a wall that collapsed because it was watersoaked.

To get to my basement, I must run down the side steps from the house, run about 20 feet along the side of the house, try to get down the six or seven basement step to get into the basement. I have only taken shelter their twice--once because I had three little children to protect. the second time because my neighbor want to take his little girl down there to be safe.

JaneofVirginia said...

Linda, I am so glad you have this. In many places in the US, the water table is so high, the option of a basement is not possible. Sometimes people buy a lot thinking they can have a basement built in their home and they find that even in a area with other basements, their lot does not sagely permit this. This can be a huge advantage.

Practical Parsimony said...

Most of the houses in my neighborhood have basements. The house next door has a nice mudpit because they just dug a deep hole for a basement. However, there is a trap door in the now-enclosed porch. If I ever move, I would still want a basement of a place on the property to be safe. Since I am accustomed to the idea that I must run through rain and lightening, it could be entirely unconnected to the house. I will keep that in mind, that I might find a place that could not have a basement.

Really, the house next door has a mudpit under the house and they call it a basement.

David said...

I had the privilege of helping to clean up after the killer tornado in Vilonia, AR last week. In the area I was working in (pretty much ground zero) there was a house stripped all the way down to it's foundation, save for a reinforced concrete safe room and the door. That room sheltered a family from a direct hit by an EF4 tornado and they are alive and uninjured to testify to it. We should seriously consider pushing such construction in tornado-prone areas where basements and underground shelters are impractical.

JaneofVirginia said...

David, Thank you for posting. I am really glad that you have shared that a family survived a direct hit from an EF4 tornado. So many of us think that the expenditure would not prevent death from a direct hit of such magnitude, when in point of fact many of these shelters in tornado prone regions, will.

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