What the other guys haven’t told you…
If you have spent any time at all looking through the yellow pages or on line you have noticed that steel shelters are the most widely used and most inexpensive storm shelter available. Many companies use this type of shelter due to its low cost and ease of installation. Although Pre-fab steel shelters have been available for a couple decades, it has only been recently that their popularity has grown due to the increase in tornado activity in the past few years.
Entry & Access
Warning!!!! If you are senior citizen or have a hard time climbing up and down steep or even vertical stairs we do not suggest this type of shelter. Most steel shelters use a removable vertical ladder for entry, most of the time this ladder is removed after entry for additional space or to allow the door to close. Many elderly or disabled customers have complained about how difficult it is to enter a storm shelter with this type of access and in some cases attempted entry has resulted in injury or not being able to get in at all. A sliding door on some type of track system is the most often used access for steel shelters. Although this may sound like a good idea initially most consumers have found many problems with this type of entry and they usually find out at a very bad time. A large number of steel shelters are placed in the garage directly under where you park the family car. In the case of a tornado many customers have to move cars or other debris before they could slide open the door to enter the shelter. Also with a sliding door that works on tracks an impact can damage the tracks making it difficult to open the door and in some cases the door doesn’t open at all. Difficult entry when seconds are all you have to get your family to safety.
Ventilation: the only ventilation on a steel storm shelter is the door or the space around the door – they are not separately ventilated to the outside of the house. What does this mean you ask? Well in some cases it could mean breathing fresh air or breathing water ever chemicals you happen to have lying around the garage.
The only ventilation on a steel storm shelter is the door or the space around the door – they are not separately ventilated to the outside of the house. What does this mean you ask? Well in some cases it could mean breathing fresh air or breathing natural gas from broken gas lines, gasoline fumes from the family cars, water or any chemicals you happen to have lying around the garage.
This is where the steel storm shelters take a claustrophobic turn. Since size and cost seem to go hand in hand, steel storm shelters are among the smallest offered in the industry. Because of this, steel storm shelters are normally measured in inches instead of feet. Unfortunately this means the available space for loved ones, valuables, pets, etc… is very limited. Also when most companies that offer steel shelters list the occupancy limit for their units they usually list the maximum number of people you can cram into their small shelter, there is no account for comfort nor is there much room for extras, whatever or whomever they may be.
Many customers have chosen steel shelters over the last few years and in a lot of cases it was due to cost. As well as a few other amenities, Size is sacrificed most often in order to cut costs, even though the size of your storm shelter can make the difference between life and death. Imagine its memorial weekend; you have 10 friends and family over for the holiday when disaster strikes. The sirens blare, the kids are screaming and you are faced with a decision, who gets into the storm shelter and who doesn’t. This is a decision you don’t want to have to make.
Due to the type of material used and the short length of time that they have been on the market no one really knows how long these types of shelters will last, even though many of the companies that offer these of shelters offer “lifetime” warranties. Long exposure to water and other chemicals present in Oklahoma soil has proven to greatly undermine the structural integrity and safety of this type of material. Sadly the companies that use steel shelters do not have a very good track record and most are out of business with in the first couple of years.
Because of structural integrity, ventilation and safety some cities have gone as far as virtually banning the installation and use of most steel shelters making it nearly impossible to pass building codes and safety regulations. However if cost outweighs safety and steel is your only option it is still better to be in a steel shelter when a tornado comes than not be in a shelter at all.
Wait!!!!! Did we mention lightning?
Modified units (safe rooms and yes even converted septic tanks). Storm shelter should be permanent structures. Not something you can move around on a truck and just bring out in buried the ground. In most cases these modified septic tanks are only 3 to 4 inches thick. And only buried half in the ground leaving a huge unsightly mound in your yard. So always keep in mind the landscape cost you will have to do in order to try to make these modified septic tanks pleasing to the eye!!