Tornadoes: Safe Rooms

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A safe room can provide the ultimate in life safety protection for you and your family from the dangerous forces of severe winds and tornadoes. You may not have the time to seek shelter outside your own home.

 Consider the following information for building or installing a safe room in your home:  

  • Safe rooms can be located anywhere on the first floor of your home, in a basement or outside. Safe rooms must be designed for wind speeds up to 250 mph and debris impacts from a 15 lb 2x4 board traveling at 100 mph.
  • Stock with food, water and a form of communication.

 Issues critical to performance include:  

  • Safe rooms must be structurally isolated from the main structure of your home. 

  • Safe rooms must be securely anchored to the foundation. 

  • Safe rooms installed in or over a crawl space must have a separate foundation. 

  • All components of safe rooms, including walls, ceilings and door assemblies must be designed and tested to resist the specified wind forces and prevent perforation by wind-borne debris.  

  • Safe rooms must have adequate ventilation.   

Site-built safe rooms can be constructed in accordance with the prescriptive designs of the FEMA 320 Publication, Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room For Your Home. These safe rooms are designed to provide near-absolute protection for you, your family or employees from the extreme winds expected during tornadoes and hurricanes and from flying debris that tornadoes and hurricanes usually generate. The safe room designs presented in this publication meet or exceed all tornado and hurricane design criteria of the ICC/NSSA 500 for both the tornado and hurricane hazards. 

Deviations from FEMA 320 and ICC/NSSA 500 must be tested at an approved laboratory such as the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University.  

Verification of compliance with National Storm Shelter Association's Association Standard provides the highest level of shelter quality. The National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) developed the industry standard and the process for quality verification, both available on the web at

Estimated Costs

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 type of foundation on which your house is built and the size and location of the shelter.