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.