Storm shelters are constructed to provide temporary shelter to people during storms. Typical storm shelters may house a family of up to 6 people. Community storm shelters house larger groups of people and are usually set up by the local authorities.
The location of the storm shelter in a house is important in ensuring that it is safe and accessible during a storm. The prime consideration in locating the shelter is convenience. The most ideal location of a storm shelter is in the actual house, and not outdoors. In the house, the shelter should be located in an area where people converge, such as the living room or the family room. Converging areas such as living rooms are easily accessible from different rooms making it ideal for the people in the house to quickly make their way there in the event of a storm. The shelter should also be as near to the external walls of the house as possible. The importance of locating the houses near the external walls is to making it easier for rescue workers to locate the storm shelter in the event that debris has piled on top of the shelter and the shelter is not clearly visible.
Storm shelters may be above ground or below ground. For above-ground shelters, specific rooms in the house may be adopted for use as storm shelters in the event of a storm. Common rooms and areas that are adopted as safe rooms in the event of storms include closets, the areas under staircases and family rooms. Below-ground storm shelters tend to have less resistance to the impact loads from storms as compared to above-ground shelters. However, the design of below-ground storm shelters should consider the supply of air to the shelter and the water tightness of the shelter. An ideal location for below-ground storm shelters in houses is the garage. In common construction practice, below-ground shelters are placed one foot from the garage door. The one-foot distance is a safe distance to ensure that the shelter does not interfere with the foundation of the house.
The design of storm shelters in USA is guided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Unlike conventional houses, storm shelters are subjected to extremely high wind speeds of up to 250 miles per hour. Additionally, these shelters may be subjected to intense concentrated loads on certain structural members. Proper design is necessary to ensure that the structural members are able to withstand the tough environmental and climatic conditions during storms.