How Do I Know the Storm Shelter is Safe? Questions To Ask Before Purchasing

RemainSafe understands that choosing the perfect storm shelter can be a daunting task. We interviewed Jim Bell, Director of Operations for the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) to receive insight regarding important questions to ask the company you plan to purchase your storm shelter from. This list is intended to help customers make educated purchasing decisions.

According to the NSSA website, the primary purpose of the association is to ensure members produce the highest quality of residential, commercial and community storm shelters for protecting people from injury or loss of life from the effects of tornadoes, hurricanes and other wind-related events. NSSA self-policies to maintain public confidence and respect for the storm shelter industry.

Through this mission, NSSA monitors its members, comprised of storm shelter manufacturers/producers, and offers confidence in the quality of storm shelters manufactured, as well as serves as a knowledgeable point-of-contact for consumers to call with questions or concerns. According to Bell, the most common questions involve storm shelter designs and certifications of the storm shelter they are considering purchasing.

For consumers, deciding whom to trust your safety with is no small task. According to the NSSA “Installation of tornado shelters, whether above or below ground, is critical to the ultimate reliability and effectiveness during a tornado or other extreme wind event. Installation checklists, ongoing training of installers, foundation inspections and proper anchoring procedures are all areas of concern.” Below are suggested questions to ask your storm shelter designer or manufacturer to ensure they are offering the safest possible shelter.

Questions to ask Storm Shelter Companies.

1. Does the company manufacture above ground shelters, underground shelters or both?

First, you need to ensure that the company you are considering offers the type of shelter you are needing. Residential storm shelters often come in two varieties: above ground and underground. Depending on your preference and the structure of your home, you may prefer one kind of shelter over another.

2. Can the company present its proof of certification of the current shelter design?

It is important for any storm shelter design to be built and tested to current codes. Local building inspectors are ultimately in charge of determining whether a storm shelter is built to code. The final code requirements are outlined in ICC 500, which is a storm shelter code document that ensures that shelters are built to prioritize protection over cutting production costs. Customers should check for the NSSA certification sticker on the door of the storm shelter.

3. Has any part of the shelter design changed since the last time it was tested?

If any part of the shelter design changes, the shelter must be re-tested to continue to be certified. Ask your storm shelter designer if the last testing date occurred before the last design change. If so, the design should still be a certified and a safe shelter to purchase.

4. Does the company have an on-staff or contract with a certified designer, engineer and installer?

Certain certification exams are offered to shelter designers and engineers to ensure their awareness of current shelter codes. For example, The NSSA offers an accessible test called NSSA Accredited Professional (AP) Program.

NSSA AP-certified individuals, or individuals with other reliable certifications have a higher understanding of current codes from a design perspective than a non-certified designer. Though it is not required to have an NSSA AP certification, passing the exams offers designers and engineers and peer reviewers the knowledge and confidence they need to approve shelter designs before they are produced.

Ask if the company you are considering has or works with designers and engineers who have been NSSA AP certified, or if their products are approved by FEMA, National Association of Home Builders, National Performance Criteria or other accredited storm shelter professional.

Further Resources

Overall, the NSSA can help prepare consumers, both residential and commercial, to make the best purchase possible and keep their families, team members, community members and business patrons safe in the event of a tornado..

Contact RemainSafe to get a quote for an above ground or underground shelter, visit our website, or speak directly to our team, contact us. We are happy to speak with you, and ensure you find the perfect storm shelter for your family at RemainSafe.