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Frequently Asked Questions
What size storm shelter do I need?
FEMA recommends six square feet floor space for each person in a tornado shelter and ten square feet for a hurricane shelter. The recommended number of occupants for storm shelters is below:
Shelter Floor Space Dimensions
Recommended occupancy as a tornado shelter

 5' wide x 6' long
5 people

 6' wide x 8' long
8 people

 6' wide x 12' long
12 people

 8' wide x 12' long
16 people

 8' wide x 16' long
21 people

 8' wide x 20' long
26 people
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How long does it take to get a shelter?
Lead times vary depending on the season. Normal lead time is two to three weeks from the time of your order until your shelter is installed. During the spring and fall tornado seasons lead time may increase to four weeks. Expedited orders are available. For example, the plant worked round the clock overtime to produce shelters for MTV (Music Television) in December 1999.
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How long does it take to install a shelter?
A typical inground shelter installation takes four to five hours to complete. Excavating hard rock extends the time. Several installations have been completed as quickly as three hours. Only two inground installations in the last four years have taken longer than one day.
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Do we really need concrete poured around the shelter?
Concrete is used during shelter installations to anchor the shelter in to keep it from 'floating' out of the ground in the event of saturated soil conditions. This will probably never be an issue over 90% of the time -- but it is not worth taking a chance. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management required shelters be anchored with concrete.
Do I need a building permit to install a shelter?
Some cities and towns require a building permit. Contact your local Building Inspection or Code Enforcement department to find out. Storm shelters are typically treated as an accessory building for permitting purposes. Cities vary in their permitting requirements.
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How easy is it to get a building permit?
City building inspection departments are accommodating and will walk you through the process. Getting a permit involves completing a simple building permit application, providing two copies of your property plot plan (or survey) with the shelter location designated on the drawing and engineering drawings of the shelter (which we will provide to the city). Some cities require the contractor to obtain the permit. We will work to make your experience as pleasant as possible.
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Who should I call to locate below ground utilities?
In Texas call 1-800-344-8377 (800-DIG-TESS) for buried gas, electricity and telephone cables. This is a free service and is usually complete in two business days. Call your local city government to locate water and sewer lines.
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Will a cell phone work inside the shelter?
Usually yes.
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Can I have a contractor of my choosing install my shelter?
Yes, we will gladly discuss the installation procedures with your contractor and provide written installation instructions for your contractor's reference.
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Are BuiltSafe Storm Shelters endorsed by FEMA?
FEMA does not endorse shelters of any kind. Shelter guidelines and specifications are established by the National Storm Shelter Association.
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Will a storm shelter add to the value of my home?
We believe so. A storm shelter is to benefit you while you live in your home. It may make selling your home easier.
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Have any BuiltSafe, The Refuge or ArmoredGuard Shelters been through a tornado?
Yes, this year during the early May tornado outbreaks. We don't have details yet. A family in Midwest City, Oklahoma credit their survival to being in a shelter which they purchased from us. More details to follow...
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What about lightning and metal shelters?
The following is from the National Storm Shelter Association Association Standard for the Design, Construction, and Performance of Storm Shelters.

Concerns over safety in lightning storms for occupants of storm shelters have led to searches for applicable science or expert opinion. Little published information has been found that addresses directly the shelter safety issue. The advice of engineers and scientists with extensive research experience in
lightning safety is reflected in this Standard. Some evidence has been provided by experts on the subject of metal structures indicating that metal enclosures shield the interior from the effects of outside sources of electricity. The public intuitively
acknowledges this principle when driving automobiles during thunderstorms. The “metal box” represented by a conventional car or van yields a skin effect that becomes the conductor and protects the occupants. More in-depth understanding can be obtained from the Boston Museum of Science,

Dr. Michael F. Stringfellow, Chief Scientist, PowerCET Corporation, states, “Metal structures are selfprotecting
and rarely a lightning hazard for the occupants. Even thin metal can safely conduct lightning currents without needing lightning rods or down conductors.”
BG (ret.) Claude B. Donovan, project officer for development of the Army’s Bradley fighting vehicle, points out that “… tanks and armored vehicles get hit by lightening all the time, and in many cases they are uploaded with their basic loads of ammunition, pyrotechnics, and fuel. There isn’t even a conscious April 2001 effort to make the ammo or packing materials conductors or insulators, so grounding must not be a big factor.”
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Web site: www.shelters-of-texas.com