Can You Dig It?
Most prefab or manufactured storm shelters require digging a big hole. Kind of like what you might need for a small pool. My first up close look at one was a few years ago at a home improvement show. I wish I remembered the company, but they had a big fibreglass shelter that was cutaway so you could see the hatch, the steps, and the inside layout. Theirs could seat about 10-12 adults, but it was available in different sizes. If we ever build a house with a deep enough water table, I definitely want a storm shelter built in. Where we live now, we might add on in a few years, but our water might be too shallow to go down. I will have some sort of at least partially buried shelter with access from inside the house.
There are a number of basic designs out there, including fibreglass prefabs, buried steel shipping containers, welded steel purpose built shelters, and converted concrete or corrugated steel culverts. The key with all of them is keeping out pests and moisture, having easy but secure ingress and egress, and ventilation. Let's take a look at a few suppliers.
This Texas company offers a huge variety of styles, designs, and capacities from 4 to 600. They have a really cool website with lots of pictures and videos. They even have custom designed and built completely underground bomb shelter homes up to 7,000 square feet. They look like they put the one in Blast From The Past to shame. They've been in business for over 13 years and serve all 50 states.
Granger Plastics of Ohio makes this unique shelter our of polyethylene molded plastic. It only comes in one size, and seat 3-5 adults. They make a wide variety of molded plastic things, so they seem to know what they are talking about and doing with their shelters. It doesn't look as comfortable as some of the larger ones, but in most cases, you wouldn't be in the shelter but for a half hour or so during a tornado warning... around these parts at least. Maybe in Kansas or Nebraska folks might spend extended periods of time in a shelter. They are looking for dealers in different states. Could be a good opportunity for an entrepreneur.
These folks designed their above ground safe-like shelter in 1998 with Texas Tech University's engineers. Sizes from 4x4 to 8x12 in two grades are available. These shelters are designed to be built into new construction or added to an existing garage or other room with a door big enough to get the unit in and flooring suitable for anchoring. They claim the ability to withstand EF5 category tornadoes and have received an award from the Better Business Bureau for ethics.
Huron Culvert and Tank Co.
This company makes shelters out of corrugated steel pipes. Their website doesn't show much, but it looks like two basic designs, both of which seem kind of bare bones.
These are just a few different types of shelters that are on the market. A Google search for "underground tornado shelter" turns up 1.6 million responses!
Probably a Good Idea
Tornadoes have hit in all 50 states in the last 100 years. It's one of those things that as an individual, you are very unlikely to get have your home hit by one, but every year, hundreds of people lose their homes to twisters, and many die. Does everyone need a tornado shelter? Probably not. But if your area is susceptible to getting hit, it might be something that saves your family's lives. Underground shelters can also be used for temperature controlled storage and might add to resale value.
Like I said, I don't know if we can have an underground shelter with our water table, but I think I'm going to check with a couple of these to see if it might work for us at some point in the future.
If you are in the market for a shelter, I'd encourage you to research thoroughly. Check with multiple suppliers and manufacturers. Post on survival forums looking for successes or horror stories from those who
already have them. Ask the manufacturer to connect you with some of their prior customers in your area.
If any of you have a shelter already, I'd love to post your pictures (anonymously of course) and if you are satisfied with your purchase. Have you ever used it for a tornado? Email me here, and I will keep your personal information completely confidential.