What to know when buying a storm shelter

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OKLAHOMA CITY - It's a place you run to during storm season where you feel safe; but what happens when your "safe spot" fails to protect you in that moment of need?

"It was scary. It was probably the scariest time." Rachael Mason said. "I just remember holding my brother, and he was just crying."

Mason ran to a friend's storm shelter during a tornado, a place where she and her family were supposed to be safe.

They soon found it wasn't safe enough.

INTERVIEW: Which is safer, underground shelter or safe room?

"The mom and I were holding the door because we didn`t know if the latch was going to come off, because the metal that holds it, it was barely on that metal thing that holds it shut." She said.

A flimsy latch that was no match for the winds that blow during an Oklahoma tornado.

"The door is your shelter, the final shelter when you close that door." Mason said. "So when you`re in a shelter and the latch doesn`t seem secure, you don`t really feel that much safe."

At a time when the demand for storm shelters is off the charts, experts say you need to make sure your shelter will protect you before you shell out the big bucks.

Conley Clark works at Ground Zero Storm Shelter in Oklahoma City and said, "One of the things that people really need to look for and pay attention to is the quality of metal that people use. They need to look, make sure it`s welded inside and out.''

  • It's also a good idea to have more than one way to get out. If the only exit is through a door buried under debris, you could be stuck.
  • Do your homework on the company selling the shelter. Don't be afraid to ask for references.
  • Watch out for scams.

"If you have to have a deposit on a shelter, be careful." Clark said. "You could wind up like we were in `99, like we were last year at the state fair where all those people got ripped off."

  • You can tell a lot about the sturdiness of a shelter by looking at it and trying it out for yourself before you buy it.
  • You should also make sure that you are able to operate all the latches and doors within a matter of seconds.

Some simple steps now that can save you a world of worry later.

"This tiny little metal piece, and then this little latch was just not safe enough." Mason said.

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