If you're in the market for a storm shelter or safe room for your family or small business, here are few tips to make you a smarter shopper!
Tip 1: Get familiar with FEMA guidelines
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has published engineering, design, and inspection guidelines for storm shelters that are based on years of testing and first-hand knowledge. They've seen how shelters of all kinds perform in the worst disasters and know what does and doesn't work. Shelters that are built to FEMA's specifications provide "near absolute protection", the closest you can get to perfect. If you'd like a free digital copy of FEMA Pub. 320, "Taking Shelter In The Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business", request one here!
Tip 2: Evaluate Your Site Before You Shop
If you have a high water table, a small lot, very rocky soil, or rent your property, you'll need to keep those limitations in mind as you shop. There are several types of storm shelters on the market in a wide variety of price ranges. Knowing what will work for your family and your property will keep you from getting overwhelmed with the choices. If you're looking for a shelter that's large enough for your family, your pets, and emergency supplies, consider an 8' x 10' shelter.
Tip 3: Look To The Future
A storm shelter is an investment and should be able to accommodate your family for many years to come. Will family member have mobility challenges that might make climbing down steps difficult in the future? Are you planning to add children to the family or will older family members move closer to you, making it necessary to allow room in your shelter for a growing family? Will you move to a new home in a few years and take your shelter with you when you relocate? Look at your family's future plans before investing money in a shelter you'll quickly outgrow or not be able to use.
Tip 4: Investigate Storm Shelter Companies Before Buying
There are hundreds of storm shelter dealers out there. Make sure the company you choose is reputable, trustworthy, and does excellent work! Membership in the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) guarantees that their shelters have been tested, reviewed, and meet FEMA guidelines. And ask about requirements for down payments and final payments. At Safe Sheds, Inc., we require a 10% down payment, but many shelter sellers require as much as 50% up front before delivery.
Tip 5: Check References and Read Reviews!
When you're making a major family purchase, Google can be your best friend! Read online reviews of storm shelter companies to make sure they're trustworthy. Ask them for references to prior customers and make sure those customers were happy with the product and service they received. Safe Sheds, Inc. will gladly put you in touch with a Safe Sheds shelter owner in your area so you can call them and visit them to see a Safe Shed first hand!
"How do I apply for FEMA grant funds to help pay for my storm shelter?" is a common question we hear from buyers. The answer, contact your local Emergency Management Agency, is pretty simple. But the funding process for the grants is much more complicated than that. This infographic explains the "trickle-down economics" of FEMA storm shelter funding.
Storm shelter grant funding has slowed dramatically in the past couple of years. FEMA grants are being prioritized for climate mitigation, aquifer storage and recovery, floodplain restoration, and pre- and post-wildfire disaster mitigation activities. Re-emphasis on storm shelter funding likely won't happen until the U.S. sees an increase in the number of severe tornado outbreaks as in years past.
The long and short of it is that storm shelter grant funds from FEMA are difficult to come by, often distributed by lottery, and typically have a long wait time between award and distribution. The American Red Cross also, sometimes, offers storm shelter funding assistance to qualified applicants. So, if you're looking for purchasing help and want to pursue grants, contact your local EMA and/or Red Cross office to find out what is available in your community. Good luck and happy hunting!