Recommendations for Severe Weather Shelter Areas

by | Apr 26, 2021

What is a Severe Weather Shelter Area?

Severe weather shelter areas are designated areas within your building for occupants to gather and take cover during a powerful weather event. Storms and emergencies such as tornadoes, hurricanes, storms, and high wind events (just to name a few) often require occupants of a building to migrate to designated areas within the structure to ensure safety. These areas are referred to as severe weather shelter areas (or tornado shelter areas, etc.).

Reccomendations & Requirements for Severe Weather Shelter Areas 

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) states that “underground areas such as basements or storm cellars provide the best protection from a tornado.” However, not every building or campus has underground spaces to cater these recommendations. Schools for example often do not have basement sheltering areas for students faculty and staff to use. In these cases, OSHA recommends the following: 

  • Seek a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible
  • Stay away from doors, windows, and outside walls
  • Stay in the center of the room, and avoid corners because they attract debris
  • Rooms constructed with reinforced concrete, brick or block with no windows and a heavy concrete floor or roof system overhead
  • Avoid auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums that have flat, wide-span roofs.

When designating shelter areas, it’s important to contact your architect and construction company to determine the materials and methods used to construct the different areas of your building. Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) published that that any time a shelter in place strategy can provide a community with the same level or protection as mass evacuation, that this is the recommended practice. 

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