Installing A Storm Shelter The Right Way

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April 27, 2011 changed the way many of us think about storms and sent many of us seeking sturdier shelter.

That day, Denita McElyea rushed to a local church basement to ride out the storms.  She was thankful for the safe haven, but wishes she had a shelter in her own back yard.  So McElyea started doing homework to find the right contractor.

After the scandal surrounding Tornado Masters of Toney, WHNT News 19 decided to highlight McElyea's storm shelter installation.

"We liked what he said and how he was going to build it to FEMA standards," said McElyea.

"Most of this exceeds the FEMA standards," said Dean Brooks.

Brooks, a contractor, has been in business for more than 20 years.  He is the owner of Paramount Builders.

When McElyea came to him with her storm shelter needs, they decided on an eight-by-eight storm shelter, fit for five people, with a price tag of $13,000.  It was also bricked to match the house.

The shelter also has power, TV, cable, and storage room for emergency supplies.

It sounds fancy, but this isn't about being pretty.  It's about the process.

"We have to pour the concrete," Brooks said.  "And then we had to let the footing set for a week to gain the strength before we put the weight of the walls on it because it's going to be over 20 tons of concrete going in the overall structure."

There's more.

"It will take three weeks and two of those weeks are waiting on the concrete to gain enough strength to put weight on it," Brooks added.

It sounds complex -- and it is.

Brooks wants consumers to understand that, especially in light of the scandal rocking Tornado Masters of Toney.  The storm shelter company is now out of business with potentially thousands of customers left wondering if their high-dollar investment is safe.

So Brooks offered up a tour to show the key features of a safe shelter as it's being installed, not after the fact.

The top and the door are the weakest points of the shelter.  That's why rebar is closer together than required.

Brooks encourages homeowners to take an active role.  Know the shelter standards, understand city codes, and check for a permit.

"Now, since April 27, I think everyone has a much more healthy respect for that and realizes that we need to do something to protect ourselves and our families," Brooks said.

Click here to read about FEMA specifications for storm shelters.  The Madison County Emergency Management Agency also offers this Q&A page for installing a home storm shelter.

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