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Safe Rooms
Know Your Risk, Have A Safe Place To Go with Time to Get There

When severe weather threatens, individuals and families community-wide need advance warning and protection from the dangerous forces of extreme winds. Individuals and communities in high-risk tornado and hurricane areas continue to address the need and combined benefits of structurally sound residential and community shelters and early alert systems. Specific guidance is available from FEMA on the construction of both residential safe rooms and community shelters. FEMA has published an excellent booklet titled: Taking Shelter from the Storm, Building a Safe Room inside your House (FEMA 320).

Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the cost of installing a safe room in a new home
A: Costs for construction vary across the United States. The cost for constructing a safe room inside a new house, which can double as a master closet, bathroom or utility room, is between $2,500 and $6,000 depending on the following factors:
  • The type of foundation on which your house is build
  • The size and location of the shelter

Q: Can I install a safe room in an existing home?
A: Typically, due to foundation size and location limitations, a retrofitted safe room is usually installed as a separate addition to an existing home or as a detached structure. Sometimes, with proper foundation preparation, it is possible to install a safe room in a garage or a basement.

Q: Can a homeowner build the safe room themselves?
A: A homeowner who builds a shelter should be skilled in building construction. Some pre-fabricated manufactured shelters are available that require less building construction experience to successfully build. In purchasing any shelter, the homeowner should ask for documentation that it meet FEMA's recommendations.

Q: Where is the best location for the safe room?
A: A small interior room above grade is the best location for a safe room. Safe rooms are often used for other non-emergency purposes. Bathrooms and large closets are a frequent choice. Because warning times for tornadoes can be very short, quick access to the safe room is important in choosing location. If the owners have any special accessibility needs these should be considered in the location and design of the safer room.

Q: Where can I find additional information and plans for safe room construction?
A: You can order FEMA's publication: Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House and the accompanying construction plans and specifications by calling 1-888-565-3896 and request a copy of publication FEMA 320. You can also visit the FEMA Safe Room website.

Q: Are homeowners in hurricane prone areas as well as tornado areas being encouraged to build safe rooms?
A: An increasing number of homeowners are building safe rooms to protect their families from the high winds of hurricanes, or because they are unsure whether they will be able to safely evacuate an area. However, homeowners in flood-prone or storm surge areas should evacuate to provide safety for themselves or their families when a hurricane threatens.

Q: What is the market for residential safe rooms? Who wants them?
A: FEMA has not conducted market research for residential homes. However, over 180,000 copies of the safe room publication FEMA 320 have been distributed in over two years. Informal surveys of individuals who ordered this publication found that approximately one quarter of those surveyed thought they would build a safe room within one year. In areas that have recently been affected by hurricanes or tornadoes, the interest in safe rooms is much higher.

Q: My house has a basement; do I need a safe room?
A: Some strong tornadoes have resulted in loss of the floor framing, collapse of basement walls, and death and injuries to individuals in the basement. What constitutes an acceptable level of protection is an individual decision. The basement is the safest place to seek shelter for homes without a safe room. However, basements do not provide the same level of protection as a safe room. Basements are a good location to install a shelter or build a safe room but access for handicapped or physically challenged individuals may be limited.

Q: Do any local jurisdictions require safe rooms?
A: Local jurisdictions generally do not have a requirement for safe rooms. However, some communities have offered incentives for owners who wish to build a shelter including reduced property taxes.

Q: Are inspections required?
A: It is always important to get proper building permits and inspections for all construction. The builder or owner should ensure that the shelter is built according to the plans in FEMA 320 or to plans that, through testing and engineering have been determined to meet the National Performance Criteria for Tornado Shelters produced by FEMA. This will usually require additional quality control inspections by the contractor or the homeowner.

Q: Is there a FEMA approval process?
A: There is not a FEMA approval process. The designs in FEMA 320 meet FEMA's goal of providing near absolute protection if they are constructed as shown in the plans. Other shelters that meet the criteria in National Performance Criteria for Tornado Shelters also meet this goal.

Q: Where do I find the doors and hardware for my in residence shelter?
A: The door can be either field fabricated or store-bought. The fabricated door consists of 2 layers of 3/4" 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 un-lockable from either side.

Q: How do I find vendors for shelters or safe room construction?
A: The designs in FEMA 320 can be built by most residential contractors. The qualifications and reputation of any contractor can be checked by the homeowner for all projects. If you are unsure of any shelter product, you should contact your local or state emergency management office. FEMA can provide your local emergency manager assistance in answering questions. The Wind Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University also provides technical guidance about shelters. Their toll free number is 1-888-946-3287, ext. 336

This is the official City of Lakeway website in Lakeway, Texas. City of Lakeway, TX - Official Website. Here is the site's home page: Information about the City of Lakeway and community including city departments, City Council, parks, and police. Also includes city history.