Comparing Safe Rooms and In-Ground Storm Shelters

IMAG0793When you hear the word storm shelter what image comes to your mind? For many people the assumption is that a proper shelter must be built underground. This can be a comforting or frightening thought, depending on who you are. No one likes the thought of being stuck in a small room with a wild storm outside, and it’s no surprise that for many the thought of being underground just adds to the fear.

Whatever your assumptions may be the truth is that you can build a completely safe shelter or safe room above or below ground. Both solutions have their pros and cons and if you want to make the best decision possible you should consider both with an open mind.

Safe Room – Above Ground

In the past it was practically assumed that a shelter had to be built underground. The main reason for this was technology. It’s probably impossible to build a proper shelter above ground with wood or even brick. But times have changed and we are able to build structures that are stronger than ever.

The biggest reason that people are choosing to build above ground is convenience. You can walk into one of these shelters, while you have to climb down into a unit that’s below ground. That’s a major problem for people who are older or have problems moving, you can’t get a wheelchair down a ladder. There’s also the fact that for many it’s easier to add an above ground shelter to an existing home so you don’t have to go out into the storm to get away from it.

While advances in engineering have made above ground shelters safer than ever they still aren’t the perfect solution. One big drawback is the increased cost, if you want to create a structure that’s as sturdy as tons of solid dirt you’re going to need to spend some money. It takes high quality metal to replicate the kind of safety you can get from the average underground shelter, and you’ll never truly get the full strength of soil, concrete and metal combined.


994048_192827084239040_1134103382_n For people who want to feel truly safe from a storm there’s an undeniable appeal to underground shelters. After all, people have been going underground for safety for thousands of years. What better protection is there than solid dirt and rock on both sides of you?

If you are budget-conscious you can usually get underground shelters at lower costs than their above ground counterparts. The simple explanation is that the material cost is lower because they don’t have to reinforce the four walls as heavily as they would with above ground options.

It should be noted that there is one big reason why you might not want to build an underground shelter, flooding. As you can imagine you don’t want to be stuck inside a storm shelter with feet of water above you. While there are some ways to prevent water from leaking into a shelter it’s generally better to avoid the risk altogether by going with above ground options in areas prone to flooding.

Another concern is actually getting to your shelter. If the entrance to your shelter is outside then you have to get to it as soon as possible, because you don’t want to run out into a storm unprotected. Of course like above ground shelters you can also attach one of these shelters in your, or rather under it. A shelter under your home or in your basement can benefit from further reinforcement as well as easy access but it can be very costly depending on the layout of your home and the necessary construction process.

Making The Right Decision

While you might have come to this article looking for an easy solution the truth is that each situation is different. Choosing the right location depends on a number of factors that are unique to every person, with one of the biggest being your personal feelings on the subject. Which option would feel the safest to you?

The best thing you can do is find a trustworthy company in your home that sells or installs storm shelters, so you can ask them for advice regarding your specific situation. They can discuss your concerns, local threats and your available space so you can come up with options that will bring all of these things together.

Finally, whether you decide on an above or below ground shelter you need to be just as concerned about the quality of the shelter. A poorly constructed shelter in the optimum location is likely to be more dangerous than a well built shelter in a questionable location. You’ll likely be safe in either type of shelter as long as it is built properly to FEMA standards.

All Rhodes Construction Safe Rooms are 1/4 inch Steel. They Meet and exceed FEMA 320/361 and ICC-500 guidelines. Call (256) 464-3736 or come in to see our line up of storm shelters