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7 considerations when building a shelter from the storm

Whether you live in tornado alley, along the coast or a high wind area, you might want to consider building a storm shelter on your property.

Texas coastal residents face the threat of hurricanes six months out of the year. One of the best ways to protect your family and yourself in case of a hurricane is, of course, to evacuate before it hits. But if you can’t or won’t leave, you might want to consider adding a storm shelter to your home. These structures offer a level of protection most homes can’t provide. Here are a few things to consider about storm shelters.

1. Don’t build in flood-prone areas

While a well-built storm shelter can protect you from high winds, it can’t shield you from high water in a flood plain. In fact, it could trap you if water pours into the shelter. The best advice remains to evacuate areas where hurricanes bring high water.

2. How big to build

The number of people expected to use the shelter and for how long will determine the size you need. Unlike tornadoes, which usually only last a few minutes, hurricanes can hang on for hours, requiring space for supplies to keep everyone comfortable.

3. Where to locate it

With safe rooms, you can convert an inner closet to one or even a small room. But if you don’t have much space inside your home, you might consider putting one in a second building on your property or just building the shelter as a separate structure. Remember to keep it fairly close to your house, because during a storm, you and your family might have to get to it during high winds and rain.

4. Above ground or below

If you’re building a separate structure, you have to address whether you want it above ground or below. Both come with pros and cons, but in some areas, going below ground might not be an option because of the type of soil.

5. Building it

A storm shelter or safe room can costs several thousand dollars. You can potentially save money by building it yourself if you feel you have the skills. But if you doubt your abilities, hire a professional contractor.

6. Check with the city

Before undertaking any construction project — even a safe room or a storm shelter — check with local building officials regarding permits, building codes and other rules. If you live outside the city limits, check with county officials.

7. Practice, practice, practice

The worse time to see how your storm shelter works is during an actual storm. Time to run a few drills before you need to take cover for real. Make sure everybody knows where the shelter is, how to get into it and how to get out of it. Also, keep it supplied with food, water, flashlights and other materials — especially during periods when bad weather is approaching.

Whether you build it as a safe room inside the house or as a shelter apart from your home, these structures can save lives during hurricanes and tornadoes.

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