Business for ‘Safe Rooms’ in Tornado Alley Is Booming

Safe room business is booming in tornado-prone areas but experts say don't wait for a grant to pay for one. Freddie Wooten of Alabama build this one himself. (Image: AP video screenshot)

The onslaught of tornadoes in recent years has those in twister-prone areas building backyard strongholds more than ever. They’re called “safe rooms”, and the Associated Press reports companies creating these extreme reinforced rooms find business booming in the tornado alley.

Watch the report:

A professionally built, two-person tornado safe room by the company Tornado Safe Room, for example, costs just under $4,000 and boasts being strong enough to withstand 450 mph winds. Freddie Wooten built his own that could hold about a dozen people, saying it cost him $4,200.

This is an in-house, above the ground safe room. (Photo: AP/Sue Ogrocki)

This year has already been considered ripe with tornadoes, many of them coming earlier in the season that expected. Just this month, 75 tornadoes were reported to have touched down in the Midwest alone — during a 24 hour period.

(Related: See other coverage of tornado stories by the Blaze)

This Friday also marked the one year anniversary after more than 60 tornadoes tore through Alabama over a 1,000 mile stretch killing more than 250 people. Federal researchers recently completed a study on all these deaths to figure out if victims had received warning to take shelter and, if so, had they headed the advice. The conclusion was half of those who died had received the message and nearly all of those took shelter, which still didn’t save their lives.

AP states there are some grants available to help residents in these areas buy a safe room or build their own. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has guidelines available for those who want to build their own stronghold and instructions for how communities can obtain grants.

Still, one investigation by the Dallas-Fort Worth Texas, NBC affiliate found if you want funding you have to know how to ask for it. In its investigation, it reported FEMA has dished out about $540 million to help build these shelters in the last 13 years. Of the 16 counties a part of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which includes the Dallas-Fort Worth (what NBC calls “the biggest metropolitan area in Tornado Alley”), only one county received funding to build shelters for 200 homes. This was because it was the only one who asked. There are other stipulations NBC reported, including having approved disaster mitigation plans in place. A spokesperson from the county who had received funding said it was a year-long process to obtain it.

Tucker Shaw of SmartSafe Tornado Shelters checks to make sure the bottom of the hole he has dug for a safe room in a customer's garage floor is level. (Photo: AP/Sue Ogrocki)

NBC reported researchers at Texas Tech stating those who wanted to build shelters for their own peace of mind should not rely on the government to get it done.

“I think that people should provide their own protection and not wait for a grant,” Ernie Kiesling, a professor at the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center, said to NBC.


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