Building Science

Safe Room Design Tips

safe room design

In life, you want every advantage you can get. That’s espe­cial­ly true when it comes to pro­tect­ing you and your family from poten­tial­ly dev­as­tat­ing external events like extreme weather. Having a safe room in your home can provide safe shelter during severe weather sit­u­a­tions. Here are four tips to help you take advantage of safe room design.

Safe Room Des­ig­na­tion. To qualify as a safe room, building con­struc­tion and materials must meet the Federal Emergency Man­age­ment Agency’s (FEMA) criteria. The con­struc­tion must also give absolute pro­tec­tion against weather-related events. That means that indi­vid­u­als who seek pro­tec­tion in the safe room have a high prob­a­bil­i­ty of survival during extreme weather events as a result of the safe room’s pro­tec­tion against injury and death.

  • Con­struc­tion Guide­lines. To qualify as a FEMA Safe Room, the design and con­struc­tion must follow guide­lines contained in two FEMA documents. The entire structure, including the foun­da­tion, walls, roof, windows, doors, HVAC equipment, etc., has to be designed to the spec­i­fi­ca­tion. The first document is FEMA P‑320 entitled Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business.” The second document is known as FEMA P‑361, entitled Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hur­ri­canes: Guidance for Community and Res­i­den­tial Safe Rooms.” In addition, FEMA provides a Fact Sheet on Res­i­den­tial Tornado Safe Room Doors. It is worth nothing that, according to FEMA, there has not been a single failure of a Safe Room con­struct­ed to FEMA standards.
  • The ICC Standards: The Inter­na­tion­al Code Council upgraded its code for buildings that must withstand extreme winds. It based its upgraded code (known as the ICC 500) by using the FEMA Safe Room standards as the legacy document for the new standards. The standards and best practices in FEMA’s guidance are not code or enforce­able standards unless adopted by a local authority; however, they provide valuable guidance for building and improving safe rooms.

Funding Your Safe Room. The good news is that funding is available from various resources to build a safe room for your home. Some of the resources use an expanded def­i­n­i­tion of safe room” to include safe areas con­struct­ed in your neigh­bor­hood. The funding sources are:

  • Community Devel­op­ment Block Grants admin­is­tered through HUD provide funding to build tornado-safe shelters in low-income, mobile home areas that have at least 20 mobile homes in states where a tornado has occurred within the last 3 years;
  • FHA Mortgage Insured Financing permits borrowers to include funds for wind storm shelters under FHA 203(k) reha­bil­i­ta­tion projects and new con­struc­tion under FHA 203(b).
  • Hazard Mit­i­ga­tion Grant Program allows com­mu­ni­ties hard-hit by a major weather-related disaster to apply for funds to protect public or private struc­tures, tear down or relocate struc­tures from hazardous areas and to retrofit existing struc­tures to protect them from extreme conditions.
  • Pre-Disaster Mit­i­ga­tion Grant Program provides funding for appli­cants on a national basis, primarily used for National Flood Insurance Program prop­er­ties that have suffered repet­i­tive disasters.

FACT SHEET: Hazard Mit­i­ga­tion Grant Program (HMGP), Pre-Disaster Mit­i­ga­tion Grants (PDM) and Safe Rooms. This fact sheet provides important infor­ma­tion on eli­gi­bil­i­ty, funding, process, and the rules asso­ci­at­ed with each of the above programs. You can also call for infor­ma­tion on Hazard Mit­i­ga­tion Grants at (866) 2223580.

As of January 1, 2015, FEMA grant programs have provided $984 million in federal dollars to build 25,000 res­i­den­tial safe rooms and 2,000 community safe rooms in 25 states/​territories.

For addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion on safe rooms, contact your State Hazard Mit­i­ga­tion Officer (SHMO). Your SHMO can tell you what infor­ma­tion you need to provide if you want con­sid­er­a­tion for funding. The SHMO can also tell you any design require­ments of your local authorities.

To read more about safe rooms, see the article from wbrc​.com entitled ROCK SOLID: Homes built to withstand severe weather.”

A New Safe Room Wall Material

The Bautex Wall System that is made of a pro­pri­etary cement and foam composite material that provides many benefits over tra­di­tion­al methods of con­struct­ing safe room walls. These benefits include: Speed of con­struc­tion, sim­plic­i­ty of installation/​construction, integral fire-resis­tance and insu­la­tion and design flex­i­bil­i­ty all at a lower cost than other storm safe materials.

To learn more about the benefits of use the Bautex Wall System in safe rooms, please contact us.