If you reside in an area that is prone to tornadoes, hurricanes or other extreme weather conditions, you should consider building an emergency shelter. This shelter can be built into your home to protect you and your family from injury or death. Furthermore, it serves to diminish your anxiety during a looming tornado or hurricane, since you have a safe haven in which you and your family can encamp as the storm passes through your area. Here are a few tips to consider when building an emergency shelter in your home.
The size of your shelter will be dependent upon the type of windstorm the shelter is designed to protect you from. If your shelter is for protection against a tornado, you will not be required to remain indoors for a long period of time. Therefore, comfort is not of top priority and you can set aside at least five square feet of floor area for each person in your household. On the other hand, if the shelter is designed to provide protection against a hurricane, you should consider the comfort of the members of your household since, you will be required to spend a longer period of time in the shelter. Assign 10 square feet of floor area for each family member.
The most suitable foundations for building a shelter include the basement, slab-on-grade and crawlspace. If you reside in a new or existing house with a basement, set up your shelter in the basement. Construct the shelter separately with its own walls and a reinforced ceiling. Do not use the basement ceiling as the ceiling for your shelter.
A lean-to shelter is the least expensive type of shelter you can build in a basement. It is built in the corner of the basement using two basement walls. Such shelters are suitable in the construction of new homes rather than existing homes. If you build the lean-to shelter in an existing home you must clear out the area of the basement where you intend to construct the shelter. Use your existing basement walls only if they contain steel reinforcement. Such walls must not contain windows, doors or openings. Construct the shelter with its own ceiling to protect its occupants from falling debris.
In the construction of a slab-on-grade house, build a thicker slab to accommodate the shelter. This will provide structural support for the walls and keep the shelter in place during a windstorm. If your house is already built, it would be impractical to install a shelter. In such a case, construct a wood-frame shelter. Use an existing room such as a bathroom or closet. You can also build a new room in an open area of the house such as the garage.
Of the three types of shelters, the crawlspace shelter is the most difficult to construct, since the construction is done separately from the framing of the house. Set up a separate concrete slab floor above the earth fill. Support the concrete slab with concrete foundation walls.