Does Your Home Have A Safe Room?

Does Your Home Have A Safe Room?


I live in the southeast US where tornadoes occasionally happen but not to the degree as they do in tornado alley. Thus, very few of my neighbors have basements and no one I know has a dedicated safe room in which to seek shelter. Should a severe storm hit, most of us do have an interior bathroom or hallway for protection though I must admit that neither will do much good if the worst weather rolls in.

FEMA Weighs In

FEMABut FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Administration – encourages many homeowners to explore building a safe room. This is especially important if you live in an area prone to severe weather, but the good news is that a safe room can double as a master bedroom, utility room or closet. Many homes already have these rooms, but they need to be reinforced to provide maximum protection.

FEMA also makes a distinction between what they call a residential safe room and a community safe room. A residential safe room is designed to protect families or small groups of people (up to 16) while a community safe room is defined as a shelter designed and constructed to protect a larger group of people from a natural hazard event. In reality, most families would find it difficult to house more than a handful of people in one room especially for long periods of time.

Doors, Hardware For Safe Room Construction

FEMA has produced a booklet – safe room publication FEMA 320 which outlines the materials needed to construct a safe room. For example, if you’re wondering what materials should be used for the door and hardware FEMA says that, “the door can be either field fabricated or store-bought. The fabricated door consists of 2 layers of 3/4-inch plywood and one sheet of 11-gauge steel. The manufactured door, a hollow metal door and frame 14, 16, or 20 gauge, can be purchased from your local building supply center. The 14-gauge door will probably have to be special ordered. The 16 and 20 gauge steel doors must be strengthened with a single layer of 14-gauge steel on one side of the door. Solid core wood doors in a hollow metal frame will also work if 11 gauge steel sheet is attached to the door.”

“The plywood door is recommended as a sliding pocket door with a supplemental swinging door for daily use. The sliding hardware is obtainable from most metal building systems retailers. The swing door hardware includes three heavy-duty ball bearing hinges and three residential grade mortise deadbolts with a one-inch throw. Surface applied slide bolts may be used, but the deadbolts are preferable because they are unlockable from either side.”

For additional tips and information, the FEMA Safe Room website offers helpful information including hiring a contractor, knowing your risk, as well as a list of related resources and websites to help you plan your safe room.



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Categories: Home Improvement

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".