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Best Storm Shelters

Profile picture of David Chandler, Ph.D.
by David Chandler, Ph.D.

ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Updated on 03/14/2018

If you live in an area that often sees severe weather, it’s important to have an emergency plan. Storm shelters (also called tornado shelters or hurricane shelters, depending on your climate) are built to withstand extreme winds and heavy impacts. Investing in a storm shelter can bring you peace of mind, knowing you’ll be safe when disaster hits.

When you're looking for a storm shelter, safety should be your first concern. Ask your storm shelter retailer or manufacturer for proof that their shelters have been tested at accredited labs to make sure it will keep you safe.

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    Compare Reviews for Top Storm Shelter Companies

    FamilySAFE Read Expert Review

    Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, FamilySAFE builds and installs above-ground and in-ground tornado shelters and safe rooms. The company distributes shelters across the U.S. and constructs its products to withstand EF5 tornado winds.

    Ground Zero Read Expert Review

    Headquartered in Oklahoma City, Ground Zero Storm Shelters sells concrete or steel tornado shelters and safe rooms with debris-proof doors. Installation takes two to five hours, and prices start around $2,800.

    Lifesaver Storm Shelters Read Expert Review

    Based in Benton, Illinois, Lifesaver Storm Shelters manufactures and installs steel and fiberglass shelters and safe rooms. The safe rooms can be customized to fit any size and space. Dealers have locations in 20 states.

    Storm Safe Shelters Read Expert Review

    Based in Oklahoma City, Storm Safe Shelters offers storm shelters and safe rooms that can hold up to 26 people. Storm Safe manufactures all of their products in Oklahoma City and offers financing options and free custom quotes.

    Survive-a-Storm Read Expert Review

    Survive-a-Storm is a storm shelter company that manufactures shelters, panic rooms and off-the-grid bunkers starting around $4,000. Survive-a-Storm offers no-money-down financing on its products, and they are available in stores.

    Tornado Place Read Expert Review

    Tornado Place is a manufacturer and installer of indoor, above-ground tornado shelters. The company’s steel-plate shelters can be disassembled and then reassembled in a new home. Call for pricing.

    TornadoSafe Read Expert Review

    TornadoSafe sells steel and concrete shelters for garages and outdoors. The company has dealers in Oklahoma and Kansas and operates out of Oklahoma City. Call or ask online for a free quote.

    U.S. Storm Shelters Read Expert Review

    U.S. Storm Shelters offers below-ground concrete shelters and above-ground steel safe rooms. Their Mighty Mite safe rooms can be installed in a small closet and hold two to four people. Prices start around $2,795.

    Valley Storm Shelters Read Expert Review

    Valley Storm Shelters is a storm shelter designer, manufacturer and installer based in Huntsville, Alabama. The company’s shelters can be installed flush with your garage’s floor or anywhere in your home with enough floor space.

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    Profile picture of David Chandler, Ph.D.
    David Chandler, Ph.D.

    ConsumerAffairs Research Team

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    David Chandler, Ph.D., writes for the ConsumerAffairs Research team to help consumers make smart purchasing decisions. David is passionate about creating content that is useful and informative, and he devotes several hours to researching companies, industries and articles for each piece of content he writes to help consumers find what they need.

    Common questions about storm shelters

    What is a storm shelter?

    A storm shelter is essentially a room or structure made to resist outside forces. They are sometimes called “safe rooms,” and while a storm shelter and a safe room are similar, there are certain differences worth pointing out to help you make the right purchasing decision.

    • Storm shelters and tornado shelters: Storm shelters, or tornado shelters, are underground or above-ground rooms made to resist high winds, object impact, shifting foundations, flooding and heavy rains. They are not regulated by the federal government, but manufacturers typically make their shelters to specific industry certification standards to ensure they’ve been tested to withstand these specific conditions. The term “storm shelter” is an ICC-500 designation.
    • Safe room: A safe room is essentially the same type of room as a storm shelter. The term “safe room” is a FEMA designation.
    • Panic room: While a panic room is a kind of shelter, it’s not designed for storms. A panic room is designed to protect you during home invasions. These rooms lock from the inside and are designed to resist gunshots and large amounts of force, meeting certain levels of ballistic resistance standards. You can convert a panic room to a storm room by sealing it and making it a waterproof shelter and making sure all sides (including floors and ceilings) are reinforced.

    How much does a storm shelter cost?

    A storm shelter can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $20,000, depending on the type of shelter you want. A storm shelter can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $20,000, depending on the type of shelter you want. There are numerous factors that determine storm shelter cost, including materials, location, size, features and more. Here are some general storm shelter prices to give you an idea of what you can expect to pay.

    • Garage shelters: If you want an underground storm cellar in your garage, you can buy a small shelter for $3,000 to $6,000, not including installation. The storm cellar cost is cheaper if you choose a small size, but you’ll pay more for installation than any other type of cellar because you’ll need to rip out the concrete in your garage. It’s usually cheaper to install these types of shelters when you’re constructing a new home.
    • Above-ground storm shelters: Most above-ground storm shelters cost between $2,000 and $8,000. This price will pay for a basic shelter, but you can add features like shelves and seats for additional costs. These can be made of concrete, welded steel sheets or reinforced concrete.
    • Custom yard shelters: Storm cellar prices rise the more you customize your shelter. Custom yard shelters cost anywhere from $6,000 to $25,000, depending on size. A tornado bunker with extra space and shelves for equipment will cost more than an average yard shelter.

    What are the most common storm shelter sizes?

    Storm shelter sizes vary depending on location and the price you’re willing to pay. While you can usually customize your shelter to fit your space, some companies offer set sizes for below- and above-ground storm shelters. Here are some of the more popular sizes.

    • Small storm cellars: Most garage storm cellars are smaller than yard storm shelters. These usually measure about 3 feet by 6 feet by 5 feet. They can fit about four to six people.
    • Regular storm shelters: Regular-sized storm shelters measure about 4 feet by 8 feet by 4.5 feet. These sizes are more common in yard shelters and can fit about six to eight people.
    • Large storm shelters: A large storm shelter averages are 5 feet by 8 feet by 5 feet. These shelters, mostly reserved for deluxe outdoor shelters. Shelters of this size can accommodate up to 14 people.

    Which certificates denote safe storm shelters?

    National Storm Shelter Association Executive Director Ernst Kiesling and Assistant Research Professor Larry Tanner study the safety of tornado shelters at the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University. They gave us some tips to help you choose the safest shelter for your family. While there are no government-required certifications or agencies that make storm shelters official, there are many agencies that offer guidelines for specific engineering, installation and inspection standards.

    Kiesling notes you should be wary of any company that claims their shelters are “FEMA-approved,” “FEMA-certified” or “NSSA-certified,” since none of these organizations certify shelters; they just have established guidelines that manufacturers use to build storm shelters. Look for shelters that meet the following standards to make sure your new storm cellar is safe.

    • National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA): The NSSA is a membership-based organization for storm shelter manufacturers. Companies that comply with the NSSA’s Standards Compliance Verification Process can affix a specific seal to their shelters. The NSSA seal tells you the company has passed inspections and secured necessary permits.
    • International Code Council (ICC) 500: The ICC 500 is a list of guidelines for design, testing and occupancy of hurricane and tornado shelters.
    • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): The FEMA P-320 outlines best practices for foundation setting, shelter placement and reduction of flood risk in residential shelters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency P-361 outlines installation practices, emergency plans, design plans, documentation and maintenance for residential and commercial shelters.
    • Shelter door: The most important part of the storm shelter is the shelter door. For a storm shelter to meet the most basic needs, its door needs at least three locks, and it should be heavy enough to require three hinges.
    • Testing: You should only consider purchasing storm shelters if they have been tested. The FEMA P320/P361 guidelines state that each shelter should be tested in an ISO 17025 accredited lab. You should ask any storm shelter dealer or manufacturer to provide proof of testing on any storm shelter you’re thinking of purchasing.

    What should you keep in a storm shelter?

    After you purchase your storm shelter, you’ll need to stock it with materials to use in the event of an emergency. Knowing what to keep in a storm shelter will come in handy in case you’re stuck there for a while. The following items should be on anyone’s storm shelter checklist.

    • Nonperishable foods: Keep some nonperishable or canned foods in your storm shelter to make sure you have something to eat in case the storm causes you to go without food. Store some bottled water as well so you don’t get thirsty.
    • Storm shelter equipment: You’ll need some standard equipment in your storm shelter in case you lose power. A weather radio, flashlights and other battery-powered lights are necessities.
    • Hygiene items: You don’t know how long you’ll be in your storm shelter, so bring a few toiletries like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, tissues and about a five-gallon bucket for an emergency toilet. You’ll also need a first aid kit in case of injuries.

    Types of storm shelters

    Garage storm shelters

    The garage is one of the safest storm shelter locations you can choose. An underground storm cellar in a garage is typically made of concrete or fiberglass and installed in the floor of your garage. Garage storm shelters take up less space, but they’re more susceptible to flooding and corrosion. Also, take into account whether you’ll have time to move your vehicle from over the shelter when a storm hits.

    Above-ground storm shelters

    Above-ground storm shelters are typically made of quarter-inch steel plates that are bolted together. Larry Tanner at the National Wind Institute explained to us that a crew brings the plates to your home and assembles them on-site, then anchors to an approved foundation system (like a reinforced foundation slab). An above-ground steel storm shelter can withstand wind and debris from the most destructive category of tornado (EF5), with wind speeds greater than 200 miles per hour. Above-ground storm shelters can also be made from other materials including concrete (either pre-cast or cast-in-place), reinforced concrete masonry and insulated concrete (ICF).

    In-ground storm shelters

    In-ground shelters are yard shelters that are typically made of concrete or fiberglass. They are installed directly in the ground outside your home. In-ground storm shelters are different from in-ground storm shelters. You install an in-ground shelter so that half of it is above the ground and half is below. in-ground tornado bunkers are installed completely underground. Both types have ventilation caps — the kind you’d see on the roofs of houses — on top, allowing for normal airflow. Tanner tells us that consumers should avoid in-ground shelters if they live in a floodplain because the shelter can flood and pop out of the ground.

    Commercial and school shelters

    Many companies build custom above-ground shelters for businesses and schools. Often these large shelters can hold hundreds of people. They are usually made out of steel.

    Storm shelter materials

    Concrete storm shelters

    Concrete is one of the most common options for shelters, especially if they’re in- or above-ground. Since concrete is so heavy, concrete shelters are more or less immovable. Even above-ground concrete shelters don’t need much additional anchorage. They can be bulky, though, which makes them hard to install in small backyards or homes with limited access to the backyard.

    Steel storm shelters

    Steel shelters are normally installed above ground, and more often than not they’re built piece by piece. According to Tanner, these shelters are typically powder-coated or painted, so you won’t need to worry about rusting. He also mentioned that steel storm shelters are ideal for small backyards or homes with accessibility issues because they are easy to set up. As a bonus, if you move, your steel shelter can be taken apart and reassembled at your new home.

    Fiberglass storm shelters

    While the thought of a fiberglass storm shelter might not be as appealing as one made of concrete or steel, fiberglass shelters undergo the same testing and many are just as safe. They are made from a mold which helps them resist leakage. Fiberglass storm shelters are generally used underground only.

    Polyethylene storm shelters

    Some in-ground storm cellars are made of high-density polyethylene. This material is a dense rustproof and waterproof polymer that hold up against heavy environmental impact.

    Expert reviews about storm shelters

    Ground Zero

    Based in Oklahoma City, Ground Zero Storm Shelters offers underground storm shelters and safe rooms to homes in 25 states. The company is family-owned and holds the patents on all of its shelters.

    • Underground garage storm shelters: Ground Zero’s underground concrete storm shelters can be installed in the floor of your garage, extending 7 feet down. Large shelters are 39 by 51 inches (for 7 people) and extra large shelters are 60 by 61 inches (for 11 people).
    • Above-ground safe rooms: Ground Zero offers above-ground safe rooms that can be installed in about two hours. Standard sizes are 4 by 6 feet (for 8 people) and 4 by 8 feet (for 10 people).
    • Outdoor underground storm shelters: If you don’t have a place inside your home for a shelter, Ground Zero can install a concrete storm shelter in your yard, extending to a depth of 7 feet 2 inches. Standard sizes are 6 by 8 feet (for 16 people) and 6 by 10 feet (for 20 people).
    • Warranty: Ground Zero covers their shelters in cases of leaking, floating or manufacturing defects for the life of the home or homeowner. The warranty is transferable to a new homeowner, but only for one year.
    • Best for: homeowners in the 25 states it serves.
    Survive-a-Storm

    Based in Thomasville, Georgia, Survive-a-Storm manufactures many types of residential and commercial storm shelters, panic rooms and off-the-grid bunkers. Survive-a-Storm’s largest shelter can hold up to 191 people.

    • Residential above-ground shelters: Survive-a-Storm offers multiple models of above-ground storm shelters. The Twister Pod ($3,137) can hold four people, the Twister Pod Max ($3,595) can hold six, and the Extreme ($4,195 to $6,795) and the Panelized ($3,995 to $6,495) each hold up to 16. The proprietary StormSteps shelter can be built under the steps of a mobile or modular home.
    • Residential underground shelters: Survive-a-Storm’s Garage Cube ($4,495) can hold up to 10 occupants and installs flush with your garage’s floor. The Estate ($6,600) and the Max ($8,250 to $24,995) models can be installed in your yard and hold up to 32 people.
    • Commercial shelters: Survive-a-Storm offers above-ground hut-style tornado shelters from 10 by 8 feet ($26,465), which holds 15 occupants, to 10 by 96 feet ($107,053), which can hold up to 191 occupants.
    • Off-the-grid bunkers: Underground survival bunkers come in 6 by 20 feet ($24,995), 12 by 20 feet ($64,995) and 12 by 40 feet ($94,995) sizes. All include bunk beds and electrical wiring, and the 12-foot models include a kitchen setup, couches and a chemical toilet.
    • Financing: Survive-a-Storm shelters can be purchased with Home Depot credit cards or through Survive-a-Storm’s lending platform. Rates range from 0 percent to 3.99 percent with zero down.
    • Best for: homeowners or business owners with more than 100 employees.
    FamilySAFE

    FamilySAFE opened in 1998 and is based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company offers a line of above-ground and in-ground tornado shelters and has dealers in nine states.

    • Above-ground tornado shelter: Weighing almost 400 pounds, a steel FamilySAFE tornado shelter is welded together and brought to your home in one piece. The shelters are tested to withstand EF5 tornado winds and range in size from 3 feet 6 inches by 5 feet to 8 by 12 feet.
    • Bolt-together safe rooms: FamilySAFE safe rooms provide the same protection as the tornado shelter but can fit in a smaller space. Installers bring prefabricated panels and build the safe room piece by piece. These rooms measure from 4 by 4 feet to 6 by 6 feet.
    • Above-ground outdoor shelters: FamilySAFE outdoor shelters come in stained or plain finishes and look more like a toolshed than a shelter. These shelters range in size from 5 by 7 feet to 6 by 8 feet.
    • Underground shelter: FamilySAFE’s underground shelter is a solid concrete unit that can be installed in the floor of your garage. The shelter weighs more than 7,000 pounds and the door can lift up to 10,000 pounds to avoid the risk of being trapped inside due to fallen debris.
    • Best for: homeowners looking for traditional shelters inside or outside their homes.
    TornadoSafe

    Based in Oklahoma City, TornadoSafe manufactures and installs steel and concrete shelters made for garages and sloped or flat yards. The company has dealers in Oklahoma and Kansas.

    • Underground garage shelters: TornadoSafe’s underground garage shelters include a secondary hatch and a store-away handrail and take four to eight hours to install. They range in size from 3 by 7 feet (for 7 people) to 5 by 8 feet (for 13 people).
    • Above-ground garage shelters: The door of the above-ground garage shelter has a bulletproof window that can be placed on any side of the unit. These units measure from 3 by 5 feet (for 5 people) to 5 by 7 feet (for 11 people).
    • Concrete slope-front shelters: The concrete sloped shelter can be installed into a raised area in your yard, providing additional protection. These units range in size from 5 by 7 feet to 6 feet 8 inches by 10 feet.
    • Concrete flat-top shelters: For homeowners without a slope in their yard, TornadoSafe offers flattop shelters that can be installed straight into the ground. These units measure from 5 by 7 feet to 6 feet 8 inches by 10 feet.
    • Best for: homeowners in Oklahoma and Kansas.
    Storm Safe Shelters

    In business since 1987, Storm Safe Shelters engineers, manufactures and installs shelters in Oklahoma and distributes them in seven states. The company offers underground and above-ground shelters as well as custom safe rooms.

    • Underground storm shelters: Storm Safe’s underground shelters can be installed in a garage, patio surface or backyard. The underground storm shelters range in size from 7 by 3 feet (for 6 to 8 people) to 9 by 5 feet 6 inches (for 22 to 26 people).
    • Concrete storm shelters: Storm Safe engineers and manufactures their concrete storm shelters in Oklahoma City. These shelters measure 5 feet 6 inches by 12 feet.
    • Above-ground safe rooms: Storm Safe’s safe rooms are accessible for people with disabilities and have internal and external deadbolts in order to secure the room. These rooms range in size from 4 by 6 feet to 4 by 8 feet.
    • Community safe rooms: Storm Safe builds custom safe rooms for businesses and organizations in the Oklahoma City area. These rooms are constructed with reinforced concrete and can withstand EF5 tornado winds.
    • Best for: homeowners in Oklahoma and the surrounding area.
    U.S. Storm Shelters

    Based in Decatur, Texas, U.S. Storm Shelters offers in-ground shelters and above-ground safe rooms. U.S. Storm Shelters manufactures and installs their own products, which are all debris-impact tested and certified.

    • In-ground concrete storm shelter: U.S. Storm Shelters’ in-ground shelter ($3,995) measures 6 by 8 feet and can hold up to 12 people. The shelter is made of three-inch concrete and has a tilted door to prevent debris from piling up over the entrance.
    • Interior safe rooms: U.S. Storm Shelters offers safe rooms that can be installed piece by piece into any kind of existing structure. The safe rooms, which measure from 4 by 4 feet ($4,795) to 8 by 8 feet ($9,595), are made of individual steel beams bolted together, allowing the rooms to be relocated if necessary.
    • Mighty Mite safe rooms: The Mighty Mite safe rooms are designed to fit inside a closet while still offering the EF5 protection of a traditional safe room. These rooms range in size from 26.5 by 38.5 inches ($2,795), which can hold two people, to 38.5 by 50.5 inches ($3,995), which can hold four people.
    • Storm shelters for schools: U.S. Storm Shelters works with school districts to build rows of storm shelters to put on the school grounds. A school of 500 students and its staff can be housed in 40 below-ground concrete storm shelters.
    • Best for: homeowners with room for a shelter inside or outside their home, and school districts wanting underground shelters.
    Lifesaver Storm Shelters

    In business since 1998, Lifesaver Storm Shelters operates out of southern Illinois with dealers in 20 states. Lifesaver offers in-ground shelters in six sizes and custom safe rooms of any size.

    • Below-ground shelters: Lifesaver’s Storm-Tek series comes in six models, ranging in size from 4 by 5 feet (for four people) to 6 by 14 feet (for 20 people). Storm-Tek models are coated with white gelcoat, a durable, easy-to-clean polymer paint used on boats and aircraft.
    • Outdoor or indoor shelters: The entire Storm-Tek series can be installed either inside a home or in a yard. The models are made of fiberglass, which resists rot and will not rust. Doors fully seal to keep out rainwater.
    • Residential safe rooms: Lifesaver’s residential safe rooms are built from quarter-inch steel plates and can resist impacts of 15-pound objects propelled by 100 mile-per-hour winds. Standard sizes measure from 3 by 5 feet to 8 by 8 feet, but Lifesaver also makes custom sizes.
    • Commercial safe rooms: Lifesaver manufactures custom safe rooms for commercial customers. These rooms can be built with pitched, slanted or rounded roofs and are available in custom colors. Additional options include walk-in safes and escape hatches.
    • Extendable warranty: While the largest Storm-Tek models (for 10, 12 and 20 people) have lifetime warranties, smaller models (for four, six and eight people) have five-year warranties that can be extended to cover the life of the room.
    • Best for: homeowners or business owners.
    Tornado Place

    Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tornado Place manufactures impact-certified modular and stairway shelters. In addition to Oklahoma, the company has dealers in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

    • Modular storm shelters: Tornado Place’s modular shelters can be built in bedrooms, bathrooms and garages — anywhere with enough space. Standard models range in size from 3 by 4 feet to 7 by 11 feet.
    • Stairway storm shelters: For customers who don’t have the room to install a modular storm shelter, Tornado Place can transform the space underneath your stairway into a storm shelter and safe room.
    • Modifiable shelters: Tornado Place’s shelters can be disassembled and moved. Crews from Tornado Place can reassemble the shelter in your new home.
    • Safety features: Tornado Place’s shelters are approved by the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University to withstand impacts from an EF5 tornado. Doors swing inward, so accumulated debris won’t block your exit.
    • Best for: homeowners with space in their home or under a stairway.
    Valley Storm Shelters

    In business since 2010, Valley Storm Shelters designs and manufactures customizable above- and below-ground storm shelters and safe rooms. Below-ground garage shelters have doors equipped with hydraulic lifts that can move six tons. They are located in Alabama and also sell shelters in Oklahoma and Texas.

    • Indoor or outdoor safe room: Valley’s safe rooms are constructed with quarter-inch steel plate walls, floors and doors. Safe room sizes measure from 4 by 4 feet (for 3 people) to 6 by 18 feet (for 36 people).
    • Below-ground garage floor shelter: Valley’s below-ground garage floor shelters have doors with hydraulic-lift cylinders that can lift up to 12,000 pounds of debris away from the door. These shelters range in size from 3 by 8 feet (for 8 people) to 4 feet 6 inches by 8 feet (for 12 people).
    • Electronics: Storm shelters can be equipped with emergency weather radios, outdoor security cameras, 12-volt batteries with battery tenders, DC/AC inverters, landline phones, interior LED lighting and LED televisions.
    • Customizable features: Valley’s shelters can come with many extra features, such as beds, lockable storage benches, bullet-proof windows, safes with keypad locks, and solid steel benches.
    • Best for: homeowners in Alabama, Texas or Oklahoma looking for a customizable storm shelter with many amenities.

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