Living in an area prone to tornadoes can be scary, but it’s important to remember that there are steps you can take to prepare and protect yourself and your family. One of the most effective things you can do is to build a tornado shelter in your home.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how to build a tornado shelter in your basement – a reliable option for most homeowners.
Why Having A Tornado Shelter Is Important
Tornadoes are unpredictable and often strike with little warning. They can cause significant damage, injury, and even death. Having a safe place to go during a tornado can greatly increase your chances of survival and help you feel more secure during severe weather events.
Tornado shelters are designed to withstand high winds and flying debris that often accompany tornados. By building one in your home, you’ll have a designated safe spot where you can take refuge during severe weather events without having to leave your property.
Benefits Of Building One In Your Basement
When it comes to choosing the location for your tornado shelter, the basement is often the best option. Basements are typically located below ground level, offering added protection from high winds and flying debris.
Additionally, basements tend to be well-anchored due to their proximity to the foundation of the house which further reinforces their stability. Building a shelter in your basement also provides easy access – no need for running outside into potentially dangerous conditions trying to reach another part of your property.
Moreover, being located within your home means that it becomes more likely that family members will use it as opposed to if it was outside or somewhere else on the property which would necessitate going out into inclement weather conditions.
Having a tornado shelter is crucial when living in areas with frequent occurrences of severe weather patterns such as tornadoes.
Basements offer great protection against high winds and flying debris, making them the ideal location to build your shelter. In the next section, we’ll guide you through assessing whether your basement is suitable for a shelter.
Assessing Your Basement Space
Determine if your basement is suitable for a shelter
Before you start building your tornado shelter in the basement, you should determine whether the space is suitable for a shelter. One of the most important things to consider is whether there is enough room for everyone who will be using the shelter.
You also need to make sure that it will be able to withstand harsh weather conditions. Another factor to consider when assessing your basement for building a tornado shelter is whether there are any structural issues.
If there are cracks in the walls or floor, it may not be safe to build a shelter down there. In addition, you should inspect your basement for any signs of moisture or water leaks that could cause problems during heavy rainfall.
Measure the space and plan accordingly
Once you have determined that your basement is suitable for building a tornado shelter, it’s time to measure the space and plan accordingly. You’ll want to make sure that everyone who will be using the shelter has enough room to comfortably sit or lie down during an emergency.
When measuring your space, keep in mind that you’ll need at least 6 square feet of space per person who will be using the shelter. This means that if you’re planning on having five people use your shelter, you’ll need at least 30 square feet of available area.
In addition to measuring the available space, it’s important to plan out where everything will go within the shelter. You’ll want to make sure that there’s enough storage space for all necessary supplies and that everyone can easily access them during an emergency.
Don’t forget about ventilation and lighting when planning out your tornado shelter. Make sure there’s adequate airflow and natural light sources so everyone can stay comfortable and calm while waiting out a storm.
Choosing The Right Materials
Concrete: Stability and Durability
Concrete is the most popular material for building a tornado shelter in your basement due to its stability and durability. It can withstand strong winds and is resistant to fire, mold, and insects. Concrete shelters usually have a steel door that can be locked from the inside.
However, building a concrete shelter requires skilled professionals as it involves the excavation and pouring of heavy materials. The cost of construction may be higher than other options but it provides long-lasting protection from severe weather.
Steel: Strength and Flexibility
Steel shelters are known for their strength and flexibility. They can be assembled quickly as they are prefabricated in factories. Steel is much lighter than concrete which makes it easier to install in your basement without reinforcing the floor.
One disadvantage of steel shelters is that they require regular maintenance as they are prone to rusting over time. Additionally, they may not be as energy efficient as other materials which means you would need to invest in extra insulation.
Fiberglass: Lightweight Option
Fiberglass shelters are lightweight, easy to install, and less expensive compared to concrete or steel options. They do not rust or corrode making them virtually maintenance-free. Fiberglass also has insulating properties that help keep the interior temperature stable.
However, fiberglass lacks the durability of concrete or steel, making it more susceptible to damage during storms with high winds or flying debris. It may also have limited ventilation which means you would need an additional air filtration system installed.
Making The Right Choice For You
When choosing between these three materials for your tornado shelter consider your budget, location, size requirements, and climate conditions among other factors.
Ultimately, you want a material that will provide safety, protection, and durability while fitting within your budget constraints. Regardless of what material you choose, ensure that it meets FEMA guidelines for the construction and installation of tornado shelters.
Building The Shelter
Step-by-step instructions on building the shelter
Now that you’ve assessed your basement space and chosen the right materials, it’s time to get started on building your tornado shelter. Here are some step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process:
- Begin by digging a hole in your basement floor that is slightly larger than the dimensions of your shelter. The hole should be deep enough so that the shelter will be level with the surface of your floor.
- Next, construct forms using 2x4s or other sturdy materials around the perimeter of the hole.
- Mix the concrete according to the manufacturer’s instructions and pour it into the forms until they are half full.
- Place rebar or mesh reinforcement into the concrete, ensuring that it is evenly distributed throughout.
- Fill in with more concrete until it reaches just above ground level.
- Allow the concrete to cure for at least 24 hours before removing forms and proceeding with the construction of your shelter.
Tips for ensuring safety and durability
When constructing a tornado shelter in your basement, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some tips to ensure that your shelter is safe and durable:
- Use only high-quality materials in construction, such as steel or reinforced concrete.
- Ensure that any ventilation systems used are properly installed and maintained for optimal air quality during a storm.
- Consider adding a backup power source such as a generator or battery system so that you can still access power even if there is an outage during a storm.
- Make sure that all doors and windows leading into the shelter have secure locking mechanisms to prevent people from accidentally opening them during high winds or debris impact.
By following these step-by-step instructions and safety tips, you can ensure that your tornado shelter will provide reliable protection for you and your family during times of severe weather.
Ventilation And Air Quality
The Importance of Ventilation in a Tornado Shelter
When building a tornado shelter, it’s important to keep in mind that the space must be properly ventilated. This is because air circulation is crucial for maintaining good indoor air quality and preventing the buildup of harmful gases (such as carbon monoxide) that can result from the burning of fuels.
Furthermore, proper ventilation also ensures that there is enough fresh air circulating in the shelter to support occupants’ breathing requirements and prevent suffocation. Therefore, you should plan to install adequate vents or fans that will allow for enough airflow while keeping debris out.
Options for Air Filtration Systems
At times when there are high levels of pollutants or particulates in the outdoor air (due to factors such as wildfires, heavy traffic, or industrial activity), it may be necessary to supplement your ventilation system with an air filtration system. There are two main types of filters: mechanical and electrostatic.
Mechanical filters use a mesh-like material to capture larger particles like dust and pollen, while electrostatic filters use electric charges to attract smaller particles like smoke and pet dander. Another option is an activated carbon filter that traps odors and chemicals by absorbing them onto its porous surface.
Whichever type you choose, make sure it has a high CADR (clean air delivery rate) rating and regularly clean or replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Consider installing an alert system that can notify you when the filter needs changing so you don’t forget about it during times of distress.
Stocking Your Shelter
Essential Items to Have in Your Shelter
When it comes to stocking your tornado shelter, there are several essential items that you should have on hand. First and foremost, make sure you have plenty of water.
You should aim for at least one gallon of water per person per day. If you have pets, plan for their needs as well.
In addition to water, you’ll want to have non-perishable food items on hand. Think canned goods, energy bars, and dried fruit.
Don’t forget a can opener! It’s also a good idea to include any necessary medications or medical supplies in your shelter.
If you have young children, be sure to include comfort items like blankets and stuffed animals. And if someone in your household has special needs (such as an allergy or mobility issue), make sure you plan for those needs as well.
How to Store Items Safely
Once you’ve determined what items you need in your shelter, it’s important to store them safely. Make sure everything is stored in waterproof containers or bags.
This will protect your supplies from getting wet if there is flooding. Avoid storing anything that might attract pests (like sugar or other sweet treats).
And don’t forget about storing waste – make sure you have a plan for disposing of trash and human waste if necessary. It’s also a good idea to rotate out your supplies periodically (at least once a year) so that nothing goes bad or becomes unusable over time.
A Word About Entertainment
Staying safe during a tornado is obviously the top priority when it comes to your shelter – but let’s not forget about entertainment! Being cooped up in a small space with little stimulation can be tough on anyone’s mental health.
Consider including things like books, board games, or a deck of cards in your shelter. If you have kids, they’ll appreciate having something to do during a scary situation.
Store everything safely in waterproof containers or bags, and don’t forget about entertainment to help pass the time. By taking these steps now, you’ll be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
Maintaining Your Shelter
Once you’ve built your tornado shelter, it’s important to keep up with regular maintenance to ensure it remains a safe and reliable place to seek shelter during a tornado. Here are some tips on how to maintain your shelter:
One of the most important things you can do is perform regular inspections of your shelter. This includes checking for any cracks or damage in the walls and ceiling, as well as making sure the door is functioning properly. It’s also a good idea to check the ventilation system and make sure it’s working effectively.
In addition to visual inspections, you should also test your emergency supplies periodically. This includes checking expiration dates on food and water, as well as making sure flashlights and batteries are in working order.
While maintaining your tornado shelter should help prevent most issues, there are still some common problems that may arise:
- Mold or Mildew: If your basement is prone to moisture, you may notice mold or mildew growth over time. To prevent this, make sure the ventilation system is working properly and consider using a dehumidifier.
- Insect Infestations: Bugs can find their way into even well-sealed shelters over time. Make sure all entry points are sealed properly and consider using insecticide if necessary.
- Deteriorating Materials: Over time, materials like concrete or steel may deteriorate due to exposure to elements like water or humidity. If you notice any deterioration in your shelter walls or ceiling, call a professional for repair immediately.
Tornado Season Preparation
In addition to regular maintenance, it’s important to prepare your shelter for tornado season. This includes making sure all emergency supplies are stocked and in good condition, as well as having a plan in place for accessing the shelter quickly in the event of a tornado.
Consider practicing your emergency plan with your family so everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. And don’t forget to keep an eye on weather reports during tornado season so you can be prepared at a moment’s notice.
Related: Desert Survival Guide
Building a tornado shelter in your basement is an effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones during severe weather conditions. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can ensure that your shelter is safe, durable, and well-stocked with essential supplies like food, water, and medical kits.
To recap, it’s important to first assess your basement space to determine if it’s suitable for a shelter. Take accurate measurements and consider any potential hazards or obstacles before choosing the right materials for construction.
Concrete, steel, and fiberglass are all viable options with their pros and cons. When building the shelter itself, be sure to follow safety guidelines closely to avoid any accidents during construction.
Proper ventilation is key for air quality inside the shelter during an emergency. Investing in a good-quality air filtration system can also help ensure everyone stays healthy while inside.
Once built, it’s important to regularly maintain the shelter so that it remains sturdy over time. Common issues include leaks or cracks which can be addressed quickly with repairs or replacements as needed.
Building a tornado shelter in your basement may seem like a daunting task but by following these steps carefully you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Stay safe!