Just How Safe is a Safe Room?

Strength test of prefab safe room.
Some storms can crush a home like a gingerbread house and blow the crumbs away.  A safe room can keep people from being injured when these storms blow through.  Scientists study the power and effects of storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes.  Mathematical models easily predict the strong forces and severe damage of debris that high winds cause.  Engineers have designed and tested a variety of plans for safe rooms that can be built in new construction, added to existing homes, or dropped in to either as prefabricated shelters.  Designed to withstand the effects of wind speed up to 250 mph, these rooms can be completes with simple supplies from your local lumberyard or professionally assembled from high-tech materials like concrete filled foam.  Either way, falling branches, flying debris, and sheer winds will not penetrate a properly planned and prepared safe room.

 Safe room from www.familyhandyman.com
Starting around $1500-3000, if you reinforce an existing closet or select simple construction for a new project, safe rooms can become as elaborate as you like... for a price. High end safe rooms run $50,000 to $500,000 depending on the size and amenities.  Although high ground locations are safest to avoid flooding, a safe room can be easily designed for your home to protect you from virtually every other concern.  Rooms can include bullet proof doors and walls, digital data storage, radiologic protection, bathrooms, entertainment, security alarms, dedicated phone lines, food and other provisions, generators, keyless entry, and a host of other amenities.

Most safe rooms are constructed to simply protect from flying storm debris and possibly an intruder.  Assuming reliable communications (cell phone, radio, or alarm system), you would expect to exit the room within an hour and no provisions inside the safe room would be required.  Safe rooms that are not sealed can be as large or small as you have available space.  An NSSA (National Storm Shelter Association) installer suggested four square feet minimum per person.  That's pretty small! If you intend to use a safe room to ride out a hurricane or avoid radiological exposure you'll need to take great care to provide for all your needs for a longer period of time.  According to the US Department of Justice room with ten square feet of floor space per person may be sealed for five hours before rising carbon dioxide levels become a concern, so you'll need to consider air quality in addition to food, water, and hygiene if you intend to remain in your safe room for hours or days straight.

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