Residential Storm Shelters Protect Residents of Alabama and Louisiana against Hurricane Winds and Tornadoes

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FEMA Compliant Safe Rooms Rated to Withstand Isaac's Winds and Any Tornadoes Spawned as a Result of the Storm, Says Storm Shelter Manufacturer Survive-a-Storm Shelters

Survive-a-Storm Shelters, a division of Harbor Enterprises, LLC, knows a thing or two about natural disasters. Over the past decade the company's owner, Lucas Stewart, has provided nearly $70 million in disaster relief work after Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma and was also heavily involved in providing transitional housing in Haiti after the earthquake there. In 2009 the company was one of only several companies in the country to pass FEMA's stringent indoor air quality standards to receive a $153 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA.

Today the company is focused on disaster mitigation as a manufacturer of residential and community storm shelters and safe rooms. According to Matt Williams, the company's Vice President for Government Affairs, "Our team has been working closely with emergency management officials throughout tornado alley and even up into the Ohio Valley, providing technical guidance and assistance regarding the fabrication and installation of community storm shelters."

FEMA has been funding community storm shelter and residential storm shelter construction through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) in a number of states that have been affected by storms over the past several years. These grants are typically processed at the county level and submitted to FEMA through the states. Alabama has been using its allotment to construct community storm shelters, whereas Mississippi and Texas have elected to use the bulk of their funds for residential shelters.

FEMA has promulgated guidance on the construction and installation of community and residential storm shelters. FEMA 320 guidelines control the fabrication and installation of residential storm shelters, and FEMA 361 guidelines control community storm shelters and safe rooms. Under the guidelines the structures must be capable of withstanding 250+ mph winds and must be constructed of materials capable of withstanding debris impacts equivalent to a 13 pound two-by-four fired directly at the shelter from close range at 100 mph. This testing is conducted by the Wind Science and Engineering Center (WISE) at Texas Tech University.

"Our shelters have been certified by professional engineers in the states in which Survive-a-Storm does business," said Williams. "It's a time consuming and expensive proposition to ensure that a structure meets all of the regulations, but it's a great resource for the public. It gives residents peace of mind knowing that there is nothing that nature can throw at their shelter that the shelter can't handle."

While the immediate risk from Hurricane Isaac appears to be the wind and flooding, tornadoes are a frequent concern in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane. This is particularly true of large storms systems that cover several hundred miles. There have been numerous tornado watches and warnings issued over the past twenty-four hours in the area affected by Hurricane Isaac, and residents have been urged to seek cover in residential and community storm shelters when available. Of course, there are not nearly enough shelters to accommodate the populations in these areas. Survive-a-Storm Shelters, with the help of state and federal emergency management officials, seeks to change that.

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