Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)

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Merovech
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Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)

Post by Merovech » Sun Oct 18, 2015 3:15 pm

Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)
By: Merovech


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In my original post viewtopic.php?f=6&t=92334 I discussed the adventure of finding (a lack thereof) information on tornado shelters, stocking one and other practical information.

I recently moved and began the process again, I thought it warranted a new post with combined knowledge and other lessons learned.

Being a family man at the head of a large family of 6 in tornado alley, a tornado shelter has been on my mind from the time I moved here from Alaska. In the past 4 years, I have seen three major tornadoes, all three of which were less than 3 miles from my house and had us in our shelter for up to two hours at a time.

Things worked out a bit differently this time. We purchased a brand new house and in the contract we specified we wanted a shelter put in before closing. I refused to move my family of 6 from a house with a tornado shelter into one without one. Thankfully my builder agreed and threw in the shelter with no additional charge. Honestly he probably got a contractor rate on it but we went with the same company, "Ground Zero Storm Shelters" they are pretty much the cream of the crop in the central Oklahoma area. (Full disclosure, I am not affiliated with them in any way). This meant I didn't have to publish my name in the paper for a building permit or anything asinine like that.

The civilian cost here is roughly $3000 for an 8 person shelter, a bit cheaper for military and such. There are also rebates and grants available, local banks also offer low interest loans on them.

I had them install it in the 'extra' 3rd car garage, so no cars will ever be parked over the top of it just my workshop and sawdust.

The shelter came stock, basically a metal box with metal stairs and wooden planks for seats.

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The first thing I did was put some carpet in the bottom and put grip tape on the metal stairs. This is pretty much required and I think the various companies should really do that automatically. If you do nothing else to your shelter, these two things are on top of the list. The carpet helps with sound reverberations a bit and the grip tape keeps you and others from falling and getting hurt.

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I learned from my last shelter that pretty much anything you put down there is going to be ruined. It is a cool and humid metal lined hole in the ground. Books, paper batteries and all that HAS to be sealed up and air tight.

The main things that I see as a requirement are:

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Register your storm shelter with the city/county. This means that if your house falls on your shelter, the local authorities know to come dig you out. This is one of the first things they do after a storm. The longest anyone in Oklahoma has been stuck in their registered shelter was 8 hours and they were very rural. (no source, this is what I was told by the register clerk)

Work Gloves and Sledge Hammer, If a tornado actually hits your house you need a way to access the important things in your house before the looters show up at night (which they will, they will steal your copper, your air conditioner units, and anything else they can find the night of the tornado, it is just a fact of life and sadly the state and local law enforcement does very little to stop it.)

Wrench, Inside the shelter are bolts that hold the back half of the door system on. If something falls on the door of the shelter, the back half can be taken off for emergency egress. But you need a wrench to loosen the bolts.

Lights, You are shoving people and likely kids in a dark confined space underground, lighting helps with the discomfort. LEDs are nice.

Emergency Radio, Crank radio with a little light. Keeps you informed.

Battery Powered Fan, Even with two people in lower 70 degree weather it gets pretty hot down there. We found that a small fan really helped with the comfort level.

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This is the finished product for phase one, I did this all the week we moved in to the new house.

For Phase Two I will reflect on the lessons of the past and complete this checklist:

#1: Potty Bucket with bags. Haven't had this problem yet, but with a family of 6 I know it will happen one day.

#2: Laminated Wall Map of my City, with magnets. This will help greatly with visualization and keeping track of the storm paths using a map.

#3: Complete Set of Clothes for Each person including shoes. Reasons are obvious.

#4: Food/Water, A Package of Ozarka bottled Water and some well packaged food is enough.

#5: Storm Bag, A grab and go 'bug in bag'. Basically contains a firearm, important papers, a portable hard drive, an Insurance documentation CD and a few valuables.

#6: Tarps, Bungee Cords and Duct Tape

#7: Diapers and Wipes (Sealed)

#8: Kids Kit, Magnetic Toys for the walls, 4 flashlights (one for each of them to have their own light, helps with them having more control of their environment), snacks.

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I like to say that my first shelter was the best $3000 I ever spent, and that remains true. Just the peace of mind value was worth that. We never have to worry about where we are going or what our plan is. If an F5 Tornado is coming toward our house we can ALL be inside the shelter in less than 2 minutes from a dead sleep if needed.

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Additional Preps include a Digital TV Antenna in case the Cable TV goes out in a storm (which it has, oddly enough), a NOAA Weather Alert Radio next to the bed which combined with the tornado siren about 100 yards from my bed keeps us pretty informed and alerted to danger even in the middle of the night.

If you live in a tornado prone area, and even if you don't. I highly recommend having your own "hidey hole".
What does a month worth of food really look like?: http://tinyurl.com/pvymvrw
Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation: http://tinyurl.com/na8qsfr
Cast Iron Skillets for Everyday Use and Beyond: http://tinyurl.com/onu62yj

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Merovech
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Re: Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)

Post by Merovech » Sun Oct 18, 2015 3:28 pm

Reserved, just in case.
What does a month worth of food really look like?: http://tinyurl.com/pvymvrw
Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation: http://tinyurl.com/na8qsfr
Cast Iron Skillets for Everyday Use and Beyond: http://tinyurl.com/onu62yj

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Re: Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)

Post by uncleben03 » Sun Oct 18, 2015 8:26 pm

When I build my first house (always have bought, not built), I'll be having either one of these put in, or the foundation poured in a concrete box for the same effect. Good on you. I live on the north end of Tornado Alley so it is one of my top reasons for prepping. That and snow/ice storms.
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raptor
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Re: Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)

Post by raptor » Sun Oct 18, 2015 10:40 pm

Great Post thank you for sharing.

I agree this is perhaps the best use of $3,000 I have seen in a long time.

Have you spent any time in the shelter to test it?

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Re: Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)

Post by JT42 » Tue Oct 20, 2015 12:23 pm

Have you confirmed you can actually receive radio stations when the door is closed? I'm not sure how shelters like that seal, but an enclosed metal box will attenuate radio signals. Might be worth trying it to see which of your local stations you'll still be able to receive.

I have to agree that for a few kilobucks it's great peace of mind knowing your family will be safe.

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Re: Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)

Post by majorhavoc » Tue Oct 20, 2015 3:12 pm

An outstanding post. Deserves to be a sticky. Thanks OP.

RE: radio reception within the shelter. Even if he can't receive signals while sheltering inside, the radio still has significant value after OP and his family extricate themselves post-storm. Hopefully to an intact house. But regardless, having a functioning radio that you know will survive the storm could be vital for receiving emergency broadcast information.

I'm a big fan of those Eton hand crank radios, BTW.

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Re: Suburban Family Tornado Shelter and Preparation (Redux)

Post by Trippy » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:19 pm

Merovech wrote: Additional Preps include a Digital TV Antenna in case the Cable TV goes out in a storm (which it has, oddly enough), a NOAA Weather Alert Radio next to the bed which combined with the tornado siren about 100 yards from my bed keeps us pretty informed and alerted to danger even in the middle of the night.
Cable lines in my area are all stung on utility poles, so if a tree falls it can take them out. Also, depending on your provider and specific channel, many pay TV providers get their signal from the station over the air (i.e. with an antenna). If that station has troubles due to the storm, the cable provider head end looses signal and won't have anything to transmit to you.

All national channels are received via satellite, which will temporarily loose signal due to heavy precipitation. They are less affected than home satellite dishes because they are bigger, but they are still susceptible to bad weather.

If you get good over the air signal in good weather, it will be more reliable than cable during and following a storm. You Comcast signal can be taken out by one tree, but the odds that a tornado is going to hit all of the TV stations in your area is pretty slim.

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