GET THE FACTS ABOUT SHELTER SAFETY

Get peace of mind with EF 5 rated storm shelters

Are above ground shelters safe?

Vortex Vaults Tornado Shelters are built and tested to the FEMA320/361 standards and ICC500 International Building codes. There are dedicated research teams that have inspected the damage of most every major tornado since the 1970's. The FEMA standards and ICC500 building codes were built from these findings. This extensive data covers wind loads on structures, and flying debris impacting structures. Throughout the years there has never been a serious injury, or death in an above ground shelter that was tested to meet these standards.  

Larry Tanner, from the Texas Tech University Wind Science & Engineering Research Center, said “In my 15 years of doing storm damage research and storm shelter research, we have never documented any deaths or injuries in above ground tested safe-rooms or failures of tested safe-rooms. This includes the storms of Joplin 2011 and Moore 2013”.


What are the disadvantages of below ground shelters?

There are 3 main disadvantages to below ground shelters: 1. Ease of access, 2. Flood risk 3. Where do you put a below ground shelter? Below ground shelters can be a safe option for tornado protection if you already have one available, but with all the disadvantages, it is recommended to choose the convenience and safety of an above ground Vortex Vault Tornado Shelter.

Below ground shelters are difficult, and inconvenient to access. When you are rushing to go down the stairs or ladder to get inside, there is always the risk you may slip and fall, or you simply may not have the agility and dexterity required for getting up and down the stairs.  As a matter of convenience, do you put it in the garage and back the car out to get in, or out in the yard where you have to run through the storm to get in? Imagine rounding up the kids, and pets for that!  That is a primary reason for Vortex Vaults shelter designs where customers can choose the comfort of their bedroom, or an easy access above ground Project Station Tornado Shelter. 

Secondly, flooded garage shelters are useless, and pose a serious drowning threat. Always check your below ground shelter for leaks before the storm as there numerous recorded below ground shelters flooded due to the high water table in some areas. In some instances you can hit the walls of the below ground shelters and hear the water on the other side if it has been a particularly wet season. That is not a very comforting feeling when you are needing shelter.  


Can a tornado rip up or move a concrete slab?

Contrary to the belief of some, reinforced concrete slabs like in your home and garage have NEVER been ripped up or moved by a tornado. There are recorded cases of tornadoes ripping up an asphalt road. Asphalt is just rocks held together with tar. Find a chunk of asphalt and it is relatively easy to break apart with your hands. Concrete on the other hand is very solid, the average home has around 100,000 pounds of concrete that is reinforced with rebar tying the whole slab together as well as piers going down into the dirt to support the home providing additional anchoring. There is no way a tornado will rip up or slide a concrete slab across the ground. Have you ever been to a construction site where a concrete slab is being removed? It is difficult, and time consuming even for heavy equipment due to the rebar holding the concrete together. If this ever happened from a tornado, the researchers would certainly take notice, and the above ground shelter industry would no longer exist! Above ground shelters designed, and installed to FEMA 320/361 & ICC 500 standards (like Vortex Vaults) will NOT be ripped off the slab.


How does a tornado cause damage and what are the main causes of injury or death?

A majority of the injuries and deaths from tornadoes is due to flying debris. During a tornado, or high wind event, damage begins to occur to roofs and windows. Mobile homes can be tipped over at around 85-110 mph (EF1). The destruction is a result of the pressures generated by the winds. When you consider the surface area of a roof, or the outer walls of a home, it does not take much pressure to add up to a lot of force due to the large surface area. An EF4 tornado generating 140 psf of pressure on all surfaces, a 1500 sq-ft home would have several hundred thousand pounds of load applied to the home. This is generally what it requires to take out the walls and roofs of a home. Compare that to an EF5 tornado putting out 200 psf on our Vortex Vaults Project Station (smaller, reduced surface area), and the tornado shelter will only see a fraction of the wind load that was applied to tear down your home due to the smaller size! On top of that, the shelter is made from ¼” structural steel making it considerably stronger than the wood framed home.


Are basements Safe?

If your home has a basement it needs to be storm rated to be safe. If your pier and beam home is the roof of the basement, there is no structure above to protect you once the house is destroyed or blown away. There have been multiple deaths, and many injuries associated with people taking shelter in inadequate basements.



Resources


https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1467990808182-0272256cba8a35a4e8c35eeff53dd547/fema_p361_July2016_508.pdf


http://www.depts.ttu.edu/nwi/


https://www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/risk-management/safe-rooms/faq


https://oklahoman.com/article/3840636/oklahoma-tornadoes-aboveground-shelters-stood-up-in-face-of-ef5-moore-tornado


https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-you-really-hide-from/


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