Multi-purpose rooms may be most economical solution
Community safe rooms can be large enough to shield hundreds of people from storms, but what does that mean to an entity that has to watch every penny?
Architects familiar with designs for safe rooms say the most economical option for entities such as school districts is a multi-purpose room, something that functions as a safe room when weather threatens, but also has an everyday use.
The challenge, they say, is creating a safe room that meets design criteria mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the International Code Council (ICC), whose ICC 500 sets the parameters for safe room designs.
Michael Sapp, architect with SAFE Design Group, of Springfield, Mo., noted there are basic mandates that shelters must fill to win a "safe room" designation. Construction must fall under specific parameters as designers create a "continuous load path" that ties roof to walls to foundation, crafting a unit in Oklahoma that, in all but the western panhandle, must stand up to winds of up to 250 mph (an EF5 tornado). Windows are permitted, but they must have shutters that can be secured from the inside to withstand winds.
That design strength also means the structure could withstand the weight of debris without collapsing, Sapp said. It must have ventilation and, especially for community safe rooms, those using it must be able to reach the structure within five minutes.