Inspect tornado shelter?

I’ve been contacted to inspect a tornado shelter. Never done that before. Any ideas of what to look for? Any references or standards out there for tornado shelters? I need to understand what I’m getting into, before I say yes or no. Thanks!

First question… are you prepared to manage the liability?

Second… what style shelter is it? How was it constructed? Are blueprints available?

Your question is your answer.

Yes on liability.

Not sure what “your question is your answer” means. Obviously I haven’t done this type of inspection before, but I am able to learn something new. I’m looking for helpful information. Thanks again. links to some FEMA sites and NACHI has a “inspecting a safe room” article somewhere on the site.

Nothing in the IRC or IBC tells you how to build a storm shelter or safe room. Those rooms need to be able to withstand wind speeds of 250 mph. FEMA has a design criteria document:

Unless it was designed by an engineer to FEMA standards, it can’t be considered a true safe room. Without design documents, you should not endorse it.

Bob and Joe - Thanks for those references, just what I was hoping to find. :slight_smile:


I am in the processing of looking into adding tornado shelter design to my engineering services. I have recently reviewed all the FEMA design requirements including the ICC 500 code book requirements. As mentioned before to be considered a true tornado shelter/safe room, according to FEMA standards, the shelter would have been built using an engineered designed set of plans along with field verification that it was built according to those plans. Even as a structural engineer I would not be able to confirm a shelter was tornado safe just by visual inspection. Even if the owner had a set of plans I could not visually confirm it was built correctly unless I observed the original construction.

Interesting story:

I inspect below the surface storm caves all the time it is either dry or wet :wink: I would not touch the structural integrity of one with a 10 foot pole