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Severe Weather Emergency Plan

Finding the best shelter

The choices are many. The decision is yours. Be sure to do your homework before purchasing a shelter to find the one that is right for you and your home. Also beware of companies that come in right after a disaster to feed on people’s fear. Look for companies that have been in business for a while so if you have a problem you have somewhere to turn. Here’s where to find some excellent background information and those companies included in this feature: 

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Call (888) 565-3896 to request publication FEMA 320 Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House, or online at, type “FEMA 320” in the search bar to locate.

National Storm Shelter Industry

(877) 700-6772

Look for the safe room installation videos on their educational opportunities page as well as a list of companies that provide storm shelters. 

Federal Alliance for Safe Homes

(877) 221-7233

This site has Blueprint for Safety, which includes disaster-resistant building techniques, an interactive Web site, and guides for contractors.

Texas Tech University National Wind Institute (NWI) (search for “Storm Shelter Research”)

(806) 742-2011

Formerly the Wind Science and Engineering (WiSE) Research Center, the NWI is considered the nation’s leading university wind-focused research and education enterprise. 

International Code Council (ICC) (search for “Storm Shelters”)
(888) 422-7233
In addition to reviewing their standards, also look for two publications: Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business (free download) or CC 500-2008: ICC//NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (fee to download).

Kentucky Storm Shelters LLC

(270) 469-6196

Based in Campbellsville, they sell and install fiberglass or steel underground shelters and aboveground steel safe rooms.

National Storm Shelters

(615) 223-7233

Based in Smyrna, Tennessee, this company sells storm shelters and has a wealth of information on the subject. Also check out their blog.

Pyles Concrete

(606) 383-3562

Based in Columbia, Kentucky, Pyles Concrete sells precast concrete shelters that can be partially or totally earth-sheltered.

Be sure. Be safe. Be prepared

From the National Weather Service

The National Weather Service reports an average of 1,200 tornadoes strike the U.S. every year.

In fact, the U.S. has more tornadoes in any given year than any other country, and reports the worst tornado destruction from violent EF4 and EF5 tornadoes than anywhere else in the world.

Tornadoes are unpredictable forces of nature that are certain to occur in every state every season, which is why being prepared for a tornado could mean the difference between life and death.

Follow our family emergency plan to stay prepared for severe weather and natural disasters.

1. Identify a safe room where you and your family can take cover

Storm shelters that meet industry safety standards are built to withstand extremely high wind and debris impact, and are the safest option for keeping you and your family safe during a tornado.

Aboveground safe rooms, which are reinforced steel closets, can typically withstand side impact and fallout from a tornado with up to an EF3 rating, equal to side impact and gravity fallout from winds up to 200 mph.

Underground shelters installed into the floor of your garage or back yard can withstand fallout impact from the most powerful tornado with an EF6 rating, equal to winds up to 319 mph and debris pile up to 4,000 pounds. If you don’t have a storm shelter in your home, find a room in your 
home that’s at the lowest level possible, preferably underground, with no windows, such as a basement. If you don’t have a basement, find an interior space, such as a small closet under the stairs or bathroom, that puts as many walls as possible between you and the exterior of your home. If you retreat to an interior space, pull a mattress and pillows on top of you and your family for extra protection.

2. Pack a severe weather preparedness kit that includes:

• A pair of sturdy shoes or boots—oftentimes you and your family members will retreat to your shelter in a hurry and you may not be wearing shoes. When the storm has passed and you emerge from the shelter, there will likely be broken glass and debris that could injure feet.

• Fully charged cell phone

• A blanket—both for warmth and to shield you and your family from 
falling debris

• Battery-powered flashlight and glow sticks

• Weather radio—if you have an underground storm shelter installed 
into the floor of your garage, we recommend keeping the radio always plugged into a garage outlet so you can turn it on and just increase the volume when you’re taking cover in your garage shelter.

• Coach’s whistle—if your cell phone isn’t working or the battery dies, a whistle will help attract the attention of neighbors after the storm.

• Water—FEMA recommends a three-day supply for your emergency kit. Of that stock, bring one bottle per family member into your storm shelter.

• Personal Locator Beacon or PLB—these are personal emergency locator transmitters that send distress signals to geostationary satellites.

3. Practice severe weather drills

Make sure your family knows the quickest route to safety by practicing tornado drills. These drills should include practicing an exit strategy to your safe place from every room in your home and going over who is responsible for grabbing supplies, such as emergency kits, pillows, blankets, radios, flashlights, and safety gear. Set aside 15 minutes a month for practicing severe weather drills so that every member of your family can quickly take cover.Should you and your family get separated in a storm, designate a place and time to wait and meet up after the storm. 

4. Heed the severe weather warning and take action

The National Weather Service is the most reliable source for issuing accurate tornado warnings. Their tracking and prediction abilities are more accurate than ever before.

In addition, you should stay tuned to local weather stations and take advantage of severe weather phone apps such as imap Weather radio, myWarn, and Weather Alert USA to track the storm’s progress. Nowadays, news stations and storm trackers will also post instant updates on social media channels, such as Twitter, since most people taking cover will still have access to a mobile device. 

Take tornado warnings seriously. Don’t wait to take cover; act immediately.

This above is reprinted with permission from National Storm Shelter. For more information on a variety of topics related to storm shelters, go to Be sure to also check out their blog.

Good to know

The National Weather Service now uses the Enhanced Fujita Scale to rate tornadoes from 0 to 5. The original F Scale was developed in 1971 by the late University of Chicago professor Dr. T. Theodore Fujita to rate tornadoes and estimate associated wind speed based on the damage they cause. The new EF Scale refines and improves the original scale. Limitations of the F Scale have led to inconsistent ratings, including possible overestimates of wind speeds. 

Read the Kentucky Living June 2014 feature that goes along with this Web exclusive, Seek Shelter Immediately.

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