Storm Shelter Is First Priority

Reader Contribution by Joan Pritchard
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Regrouping after a total loss takes a while, and it has been three years since my old farmhouse burned. The replacement is pretty overwhelming and there are so many issues to consider, I am just now breaking ground. I am excited to describe what I’ve chosen to build, but my first priority was to make absolutely sure there would be a storm shelter, something the old house lacked. I spent too many storms cowered in a closet.

Originally the farm had a “cave” built in the early 1930s. It served the primary purpose of food storage (potatoes, jars, eggs, etc.) with underground protection during storms. Like many “caves,” however, it began to collapse, became unsafe and was bulldozed. Also it had snakes, mice and bugs and I knew I wanted a better shelter.

I had learned of new shelter types recently and have a steel “safe-room” in my city house. As I began to research for an appropriate farm shelter, I considered,

  • A shelter that had a tested FEMA rating.

  • The location I wanted to place it.

  • Appropriate size and cost.

    As I compared various shelters, I found some key differences. I decided a poured-in-place concrete reinforced steel shelter was overkill and subsequently reviewed forms of in-ground and above-ground shelters.

    I rejected the in-ground units for two reasons: First, it didn’t seem to afford superior protection, and second, for older persons, access was more difficult, especially if confined to a walker or wheelchair.

    I thought the above-ground units seemed appropriate, so once the FEMA test was satisfied, I still found some were constructed of lighter weight metal, some required significant “step-in” and others had poorly designed locks. Finally, there were differing installation designs.

    I settled on a unit from Protection Shelters, although similar products may be available under other brand names. This unit will install above ground in the garage by bolting through the concrete floor and will allow step-less entry. The company had other models including below-ground and safe-room designs, but one needs to consider their own unique needs.

    Now that Priority No. 1 is handled, we’re moving on to building. The shelter will be installed 10 days after the garage concrete has cured.

    I can’t wait to see the more fun stuff (like walls), but I’m sure glad I started with this.

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