Shelter from the Storm: Testing

When a tornado warning is issued you have little time to decide where you will seek shelter.

Many in the wiregrass are turning to storm shelters below and above ground.

But before you make your purchase, experts say shop around.

"You don't know whether manufacture a's shelter is as good as manufacture b's. The only way you can determine that is to test it," said Larry Tanner, Texas Tech's Wind Science and Engineering Research Center.

He knows which safe rooms will provide you adequate shelter during a storm. He's worked for there for 13 years. They are the in that time he's tested well over 1,000 shelters.

"You have to have a plan. Hopefully you have a shelter, above ground or below. Hopefully if you do have shelter, they are tested," he said.

Texas tech began researching tornadoes back in the early 70's. According to Tanner, a properly built, tested, and installed safe room can withstand an F5 tornado.

There are two things that must check out for a shelter to be Texas Tech approved. It must be capable of withstanding 250 plus miles per hour winds. Also, it should be able to withstand debris impacts equivalent to a 13 pound two-by-four fired directly at the shelter. This is done from a close range at 100 miles per hour.

Most shelters have been able to withstand the ultimate test.
"In 2011 we found a bunch. We found a bunch in Alabama, and we found a bunch in Joplin. Every above ground shelter that we found in Joplin was a tested shelter that has been through this laboratory," said Tanner.

In fact, only about 20 percent fail.

While the above ground shelters must be able to take a hit on all sides, testing on below ground shelters is mainly focused on the door. That's because the ground covering it adds protection.

"I'm usually worried about the door system on below ground shelters. I have observed many, many below ground shelter doors that have blown off because they were nothing but junk. I don't test the shell. Are there requirements regarding the shell, the answer is yes," said Tanner.

Kevin Julian, Storm Shelters of Northwest Florida, said, "Different doors are built with different materials. The biggest thing is they've got to pass the test. If they don't pass the test they're probably not going to do what their supposed to do."

You may be wondering what happens after a manufacturer receives the Texas Tech stamp of approval.

"I don't have a lot of control beyond the test of these manufacturers. Whether or not they continue to build their shelters the way they are being tested, but most of the ones who have been in business for quite a while, started with tested shelters. If they are still in business, they are building them good and have continue to build them well," said Tanner.

Following guidelines to keep you safe during the storm.

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