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Building a Safe Room

A safe room, or storm shelter, provides the highest degree of protection for you and your family from the dangerous forces of extreme winds and debris impacts. Consider the following information for building or installing a safe room
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Safe Room Construction
  • Safe rooms can be site-built or manufactured and can be installed in new or existing homes.
  • Site-built safe rooms can be constructed with concrete, concrete masonry, and combinations of wood frame and steel sheathing or concrete masonry infill.
  • Manufactured safe-rooms are usually built at a plant or assembled on-site.
  • Issues critical to performance include:
  1. Safe rooms must be structurally isolated from the main structure of your home.
  2. Safe rooms must be securely anchored to the foundation.
  3. Safe rooms installed in or over a crawl space must have a separate foundation.
  4. All components of safe rooms, including walls, ceilings, and door assemblies, must be designed and tested to resist the specified wind forces and prevent perforation by wind-borne debris.
  5. Safe rooms must have adequate ventilation.


  • Safe rooms can be located anywhere on the first floor of your home, in a basement, or outside.
  • Shelters located outside your home should be accessed immediately when a storm warning is issued.

Wind Forces and Debris Impacts

  • Safe rooms must be designed for wind speeds up to 250 mph and debris impacts from a 15 lb 2x4 board traveling at 100 mph.

Testing and Quality Verification

  • Site-built safe rooms can be constructed in accordance with the prescriptive designs of FEMA 320, Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House.
  • Deviations from FEMA 320 and manufactured safe rooms must be tested at an approved laboratory such as the Wind Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University.
  • Verification of compliance with National Storm Shelter Associations
  • Association Standard, required for membership in the Association, provides the highest level of shelter quality.

Emergency and Disaster Supply Kit

  • Prepare an emergency plan and have a disaster supply kit available in your safe room.

Text by Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH)
© 2005 Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc.

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