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Types of Emergency Shelters for Protecting Your Family

Types of Emergency Shelters for Protecting Your Family

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Protecting you family is a top priority, and with all the natural disasters and unpredictable events that occur in our world, it can be difficult to do. Building an emergency shelter is one of the many ways you can keep your family safe when danger strikes. There are a number of different emergency shelters that can provide your family security and give you peace of mind.

Storm Room

Storm rooms function as protective shelters from high-wind storms like hurricanes and tornadoes. Generally, they are built on the first level of a house using an interior room—such as a bathroom, closet or pantry—as a base for the structure. The advantage of using a pre-constructed inner room is that there is already one door and no windows, so it’s easily convertible. The walls must be reinforced with wind-resistant materials, like steel and Kevlar, so that the storm room will hold up even if your house is damaged. Storm rooms are easily put in when building a new house, but they can also be installed in an older residence.

Walk-In Vaults

Usually found on the upper floors of a house, walk-in vaults are small rooms that serve as a place to store valuables. It can be used as a place for your family to hide in case of an emergency, but these tend to be smaller and less effective as shelters. Walk-in vaults are steel or Kevlar structures that can provide safekeeping for personal, important items that you do not want stolen.

Storm Cellars

Storm cellars are pre-manufactured rooms that are placed into the ground either under your house or next to the foundation. Cellars can be made into any shape from oval and sphere to rectangular and dome. They are accessed using cellar doors, and feature steps leading down into a spacious haven. Storm cellars can be made of corrugated steel culverts, steel plate, reinforced fiberglass, high-density polyethylene, and concrete reinforced with rebar (steel rods) or fibermesh. Storm cellar doors are usually made from steel, fiberglass, or steel-plated plywood or aluminum. Stairs or ladders in storm cellars can be made of wood, aluminum, steel, or fiberglass. Storm cellars cost about $3,000, but the price can vary depending on the manufacturer and any added amenities you choose. These emergency shelters are great for tornado-prone areas of the country.

Panic Rooms

Panic rooms are associated with break ins and robberies, but they can also be used for protection from weather related dangers. If you are using a panic room for both of these scenarios, it is best kept on the ground level. Panic rooms can be made out of a pre-existing closet or bathroom, or they can be newly constructed out of advanced materials. Many panic rooms can be built with blast-proof Kevlar walls, a cement foundation and steel ceiling—but this is just one of many options. The door is usually the weakest part of the panic room, so it must be either replaced with a steel door or reinforced with high tech locks and doorjambs. If you can afford to splurge, you can add surveillance and key-pad entry to your panic room, but these are not necessities. The easiest and most cost-effective way to install a panic room is during construction of your house, but if you have an existing home, inner rooms can get made over. High-end panic rooms are generally pretty pricey, so unless you have the money, it’s best to stick with more moderate options. The cost of panic rooms starts at $3,000 and increases with any added features or specialty materials.


Situated in the basement of a house, lean-tos are emergency shelters generally used for protection from tornadoes. They are constructed from concrete or concrete masonry, and two sides of the lean-to can be made from current basement walls, but they must be reinforced with steel rods. The ceiling must also have reinforced concrete to protect your family from any falling debris. Lean-tos are relatively easy to build in existing homes, and are probably one of the more economical emergency rooms. However, if you are living in an area where hurricanes and high water pose a threat, then lean-tos are not the best choice, since they are susceptible to flooding.

Bomb Shelters

Bomb shelters are underground structures that protect from natural disasters, nuclear attacks and home invasion. These fortified rooms can be made from various materials ranging from cement blocks or stones to poured concrete and steel. Since bomb shelters need to be placed deep into the ground, the weight of soil and structures above needs to be taken into consideration. The strength of the shelter is essential, so the walls need to be extra thick to withstand outside forces. Bomb shelters can be constructed out of a wood frame, which is less expensive, but many people feel safer with solid cement blocks. The cost of a bomb shelter depends on how big you want to make it, the material you use and the contractor you hire.


Slab-on-grades are structures that work great for houses without a basement. They are similar to a lean-to, however, all the walls have to be separate from the foundation of the house. Slab-on-grades are built—as the name suggests—on a concrete slab added to the house. The walls are fortified with concrete and steel, and the ceiling has to be reinforced with steel plates for protection from windborne objects. These structures protect you from high-wind storms, and they are especially useful in hurricane-prone areas because there is little risk of flooding. Slab-on-grades are a little more expensive than lean-tos because they require a bit more work, but the cost is not significantly higher.

Fallout Shelters

Made popular during the Cold War when nuclear invasion cause widespread panic, fallout shelters were the best way to stay safe from bombs and high levels of radiation. Today, fallout shelters are still being built for protection against dangerous weather, possible terrorist attacks, pandemics and home invasion. Fallout shelters are designed to hold up against most anything, so they are usually made of the strongest material available. Cement- and steel-enforced walls are the foundation of a fallout shelter, and they need to be relatively thick to hold up underground for a long period of time. Since fallout shelters are constructed with the intent of spending an extended amount of time in them, they need to be spacious enough to accommodate everyone comfortably. It’s best to compensate ten-square feet for each individual in your family as well as some extra space for necessities like water, food and medical supplies. Fallout shelters should not be constructed in an area that is known to flood, because the extra weight of the water above the structure could affect the wall and there is always a risk of water entering the shelter. The cost of a fallout shelter will depend on how big you build it and what kind of materials you use.

There are a number of different emergency structures that you can get to protect your family, but no matter what you decide to go with, it’s important to speak with a skilled contractor. They can answer any questions about what emergency structure will work best in your house, where you should put it, the possible dangers that exist around you house, how much time it will take to build and how much it will cost. If you are interested in learning more about emergency structures like panic rooms, storm cellars and bomb shelters, or you want to set up a free consultation with a contractor in your area, contact us today.

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