Shelter from the Storm: Underground Shelters

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After the tornado outbreak on April 27th, 2011, people across Alabama have been more proactive when it comes to storm safety. Many are getting a little help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Debra Purdy didn't think the day would ever come.

"I'm very excited. The safety factor thrills me," said Purdy.

After waiting for more than a year for a FEMA grant, a storm shelter is being installed at her home in Enterprise.

"In this neighborhood we have a lot of older people. I live alone here myself. I got an eight-man shelter so my neighbors as well as I could fit in it," said Purdy.

Storm Shelters of Northwest Florida installed nearly 300 other shelters within a hundred miles of the wiregrass last year. Some can hold up to 20 people. The underground shelters are made of fiberglass and anchored with concrete and buried.

"You're dirt is going to be the ultimate protection for the body of the shelter. The doors are reinforced and impact tested to withstand a direct hit. We actually had one of these models April 27 in northern Alabama that got hit with an F5 tornado. There literally was no damage at all to the shelter," said Kevin Julian, Storm Shelters of Northwest Florida.

The doors have a multi-point locking system, and they are tested at Texas Tech's Wind Science and Engineering Research Center.

"They've got to be designed where the door can't come open during a tornado. Different doors are built with different materials. The biggest thing is they've got to pass the test," said Julian.

When the ultimate test comes, Purdy and her neighbors will be ready.

"All of us around here have weather radios. They know when the time comes they can come straight over," said Purdy.

Be sure to have a flashlight, it can get dark underground.

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