Tornado Week: Building your own storm shelter

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Weekend warriors aren’t afraid to tackle those kitchen makeovers or bathroom renovations.

But what about a do-it-yourself storm shelter?

KFOR had several posts to our Facebook page from viewers saying they’re planning on building their own shelter.

Everyone who has one said it’s well worth it.

Summer McGuire said the safe room her family had installed in their home two years ago provides peace of mind.

She speaks from experience.

When a tornado was tearing up Norman earlier this month, just a few miles away, she was inside a room surrounded by concrete and steel.

“And then we didn’t know how long to stay in there,” McGuire said while laughing. “It was scary but I did feel better than if I had been in a bathtub or in a closet or something.”

Ground Zero Storm Shelters is already booked with orders through mid-July.

But for those who want to build their own shelter, they said there are a few dangers.

“You can ruin your foundation,” Installer Shannon Leatherman said. “You can hit water lines.”

The shelter Ground Zero was installing in a northwest Oklahoma City residential garage Monday will be five feet deep and secured by six inches of concrete.

Leatherman said if your shelter isn’t secured, there could be trouble.

“You could be sucked out of the ground, possibly, depending on how deep and how you really secured it,” he said. “But just throwing dirt back around (on it) is definitely not the proper way to do that.”

He said every shelter should have proper ventilation, plus debris guards on the hatch.

“So you don’t have stuff coming in on you during a storm,” Leatherman said. “Glass, or whatever may be flying around.”

Also, a secondary escape hatch is needed if the main hatch becomes blocked.

Whether it’s above or below ground, McGuire can’t recommend one enough.

“It was probably the smartest decision that we made when we were building,” she said. “In Oklahoma, you never know about the weather and what’s going to happen.”

There are thousands of applicants who were not selected to receive shelter rebates from FEMA this year, but city and county rebate programs are available.

If you’d like more information from FEMA on safe room construction plans and funding, log on to FEMA’s website here.

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