Is Your Safe Room FEMA-Approved? How You Can Tell

31 January 2015
 Categories: Home & Garden, Blog


Living in an area that is frequently pummeled by tornadoes or hurricanes means you live in constant uncertainty about where you will be when the next one hits. With tornadoes, you do not get much of a warning besides the air raid siren if you live close to a city or town. With hurricanes, you have enough advance warning to board your house up and vacate, but most of the time you do not want to leave your home for fear of what you will find when you return. Building a safe room is an excellent option, but you will need to make it FEMA-approved, and here is how.

Highly Technical and Engineered for Safety

Most safe rooms are constructed from an existing room inside your home. Floridian home builders, for example, already design modern homes to include a partially enclosed inner room in floor plans such that homeowners have the option of reinforcing it to FEMA codes and making it a safe room. If your home is much older, you will have to select a room wherein at least two or three other rooms create the side walls of the room you select. Additionally, you will have to hire a contractor who knows how to reinforce these walls to withstand the FEMA requirement of 

"...  the 15-lb 2x4 wood board missile traveling horizontally at 100 mph and vertically at 67 mph..."

This specific engineering requirement helps protect you and your family should a hurricane rip up your home around you and send debris hurtling towards the walls of your safe room. You should not be able to drive a hole in the wall with just a hammer, otherwise your safe room is definitely not FEMA-approved.

FEMA-Approved Safe Room Doors

You absolutely have to have doors on your safe room, and not just any doors will do. These are doors that you can close and lock and that can withstand the changes in wind speed and pressure of a hurricane or tornado. They cannot be hollow-core doors or made of balsa wood. You should be able to purchase doors specifically manufactured and labeled for safe room construction and use from a local home improvement store. Make sure they stand up to the FEMA storm-tested requirements and carry the UL label that states the door can withstand up to 250mph.

FEMA Codes Take Precedence

When hiring a contractor to help you construct a safe room, make sure he or she is following the FEMA codes. FEMA codes for a safe room go above and beyond most local building codes and take precedence over local building codes because the safe room has to protect you under extreme circumstances. Better yet, find a contractor who specializes in building FEMA-approved safe rooms, and then you know your safe room is exactly what you need.