Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

Local home builders make storm shelters a building standard

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If you were caught in one of Oklahoma's recent deadly tornadoes, your best chances of survival were underground.

If that wasn't an option, some may have felt like they had nowhere to hide.

There aren't any laws or building codes requiring that underground shelters be installed in every home they build but some local builders are making it a business standard.

They couldn't stand to watch deadly tornadoes tear through Oklahoma City communities and think that there may be families in their homes that had nowhere to hide.

"That first night on the 20th I thought, 'What could I do different,'" Taber Leblanc of Taber Homes said. "What could I do to make a difference to protect our customers' families' safety?"

Leblanc is wondering why it's not required of him to include storm shelters in every house he builds, so he's taking matters into his own hands.

"It's just something that we're going to use as a standard in every house as we go forward," Leblanc said. "It's just a part of the cost like the sticks and bricks that go into our homes."

He even invites his competition to follow his lead.

"I would like to see that come as a standard in the state of Oklahoma on any newly constructed home," Leblanc said. "I'd like to call out to all the other builders to look at doing that and putting that in as a standard in their homes."

Russ Gammill, Vice President of Ideal Homes, is seeing numbers that show the last thing new homeowners are thinking about is a tornado.

"We sell storm shelters to probably 10 percent of the buyers that buy new homes from us," Gammill said. "Ultimately people choose to spend their money on other options and upgrades."

Gammill said the market would have to tell him there is more of a demand before Ideal Homes will automatically include storm shelters in every home they build.

Taber Leblanc said he doesn't care.

"It was plain and simple," Leblanc said. "We'll put in storm shelters and if we lose some sales over it, so be it."

Leblanc said storm shelters are never going to be something they will not include.

Both urge their competition to make storm shelters so common that one day you'll be able to find one in every home in Oklahoma.

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