Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest and spent most of my adult life in the Northeast, I’ve never experienced a legitimate twister. And as this horrific, historic tornado season continues to destroy homes, devastate families, and decimate entire towns in the South and Midwest — most recently in Joplin, Mo. — I've been wondering about what the at-home protocol is when the sirens begin to blare since I've never experienced it firsthand. Aside from the basement (what's with the southeast corner?) where exactly is considered "safe"? What happens beyond the romanticized “get the kids and the chickens down to the cellar and quick!” scene? And are Tornado Alley homes built to withstand the elements just like seismic building codes in shakier parts of the world require homes to be built so that they don’t crumble?
According to a recent ABC News article, tornado-proof homes aren’t impossible to build — it’s just impossible for most homeowners to afford one. A fastidiously engineered dwelling with “missile-resistant” doors, walls, windows and roof can bump construction costs up at least 20 percent compared to homes that aren’t designed to deflect projectiles being hurled through the air at 250 miles per hour.
Experts believe that the most reasonable alternative to building a tornado-proof, Jodi Foster-approved home is to build an in-residence safe room if a storm shelter or basement isn’t an option.
Ernst Kiesling, a professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech University and executive director for the National Storm Shelter Association, tells ABC News: "You have to build to such high standards that when you try to make the entire house safe, that's not sensible. It greatly increases the cost [to build] the house."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides all sorts of instruction and answers numerous questions on how to go about building and preparing an in-residence safe room, noting that the best locations are in a basement, atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor, or in an interior room on a ground floor.
Instead of rehashing information from the FEMA website, I have a few questions for those of you who live in active tornado areas. Feel free to speak out in the comments sections.
Where exactly in your own home is your safe room/shelter? What is it like? Have you retrofitted an area of your home to withstand tornado or hurricane-strength winds? Or have you installed a fancy, prefabricated aboveground storm “closet” of sorts as detailed by Wall Street Journal reporter Wendy Bounds in the below video? Have any general advice to share on safe rooms/storm shelters and on tornado preparedness? (I personally need it as I didn't know what in the world to do when this blew through my Brooklyn neighborhood.) Would you ever consider living somewhere like this?
Via [ABC News]