Storm Safety Shelter

Earthbag storm safety shelters for hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters
Earthbag storm safety shelters for hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters

“This was designed for safety in mind. We have had many requests in natural disaster areas (Oklahoma, Colorado, California) that we decided to make a universal plan that meets the international standard for storm shelter safety with an environmentally sound method. The Storm Safety Shelter is designed in accordance with the 2009 IBC and the 2008 ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (ICC-500.)”

Storm Shelter Plans – 11×17 no scaling – $350

Read more at the source: United EArth

21 thoughts on “Storm Safety Shelter”

  1. Texas Tech has an experienced building material impact testing department.

    They do a lot of research where they fire a full length 2×4 out of an air cannon at doors, walls, shutters, etc, at speeds replicating what real storms can throw debris at structures, and video the results with high speed cameras. Then they analyze the results to determine the level of protection various systems offer.

    There are already many videos on YouTube of lots of past tests they have conducted.

    It’s an impressive research operation, but there is a major flaw in their research.

    They only seem to conduct testing on materials when a commercial manufacturer is funding the testing. Sadly, Texas Tech isn’t interesting in testing Natural construction materials or techniques.

    Is rather obvious that many earthbag, strawbale, cob, adobe, papercrete, and other natural and inexpensive diy systems would withstand the most extreme tests very well. The problem is that there is no big corporation interested in funding the testing of such materials or systems.

    It’s yet another example of how big corporations have basically bribed their way into preferential treatment, at the expense of average citizens.

    It seems obvious that Owen’s green roofed earthbag dome would be an outstanding storm shelter, as long as the door was strong enough. It also would be easily handicap accessible. The price would be super cheap. Anyone could afford it.

    The problem with Owen’s design is that no big corporation will be able to make millions, and therefore such a system will never get tested to prove how resilient it could be under extreme storm conditions.

    However, this is one situation that has an easy answer.

    Just build it anyway, and make sure the structure is small enough that it can be classified as a shed, and therefore not be restricted by building codes. Anyone anywhere can build a shed. Just make sure you use the best, strongest, steel door possible. The door jamb and hardware must also be extremely strong if you expect it to withstand tornado debris impacts.

  2. You can salvage or fabricate some strong cellar doors, but they also make storm hatches ( All of which are expensive but with the knowhow could design and build a cheap alternative. I figure, look at all the options out there, take a design and salvage the parts. The design of the door is also for escape purposes. According to the ICC-500 the exit door should be on a slope so that if anything lands on the door you would have a better chance of it sliding off and not trapping you. So while I do think that a shed on top of a standard, unrated cellar door, it may cost you in the event of emergency. Once we get enough funding we plan to get missile testing done at Texas Tech so that we are able to get an above ground version certified.

  3. My thought was a simple shed.

    Earthbag walls. Generic steel clad door, probably salvaged. It wouldn’t be a door that would withstand tornado projectiles, but still very strong. Simple tin roof, or maybe a small green roof.

    Such a structure could be built for a very small investment. Probably under a hundred dollars if you are really good at scrounging parts and materials. Easily cheaper than one of those special steel cellar doors.

    Then just build a good strong hatch door in the floor to access the storm shelter below. That hatch door need not be perfectly weather tight. It need not be designed to withstand direct impacts.

    Daisy raises an important consideration.

    This particular shelter design would not be the appropriate design for handicapped access.

    Oh sure, in a true emergency situation, I would hope that a handicapped person would receive assistance getting into this type of shelter, but that only can be done if there are other able bodies people around to assist at the key moment. Hardly an ideal situation.

    There are other storm shelter designs that can be handicap accessible, though. Choose one of those options instead. Above ground walk in designs exist that could be accessible via a wheelchair. It’s important to design structures that are appropriate for the people that will be using them.

  4. That might be okay except in tornado alley. That shed could be history. Never mind the roof and windows; the whole thing could end up in Oz. A simple metal shed would cover and keep it dry I believe. If you didn’t want to spend a lot of money on materials and time for a wooden shed. Myself, I’d spend the extra money for a “steel” hatch as well as the entrance door of steel. I’d rather go “the stronger the better” way. But hey, that’s just me.

  5. I have an idea that I’d like to throw in the mix here.

    What about completely abandoning the concept of that cellar door, or hatch, or whatever you want to call it?

    As a cheaper, and far more versatile alternative, I suggest building an above ground storage shed right on top of the storm shelter completely encompassing the storm shelter entrance door. A very simple shed. Very small and quick to build.

    That allows you to make your own hatch cellar door any way you want to.

    Since those special doors are so expensive, I suspect that the entire above ground shed could be built cheaper than the cost of one of those doors. Plus, you get a nice storage shed as well.

    The shed need not be designed to completely withstand the most extreme storms, it could be considered sacrificial in such extreme events. Who cares of the shed roof flys off, and the windows blow out. You, your family, your dog, and your pet tribbles are safe and sound down below. All you are asking the shed to do is protect the hatch entrance to the storm shelter from normal day to day weathering. It keeps water from flooding down below during standard, non-hazardous, typical precipitation events that happen regularly.

    This alternative may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but it may be worth considering.

    A shed with a basement?

    If you have the below ground storm shelter double as a cool pantry, or a root cellar, all the better.

    Just be smart about what gets stored in the above ground shed. You don’t want to store items there that would become dangerous to anyone sheltering below during an extreme storm. Like, gasoline, for instance. Don’t want a drum of fuel getting knocked round up above during a storm and leaking flammable fuel down below. No dangerous chemicals.

    In any case… there is an idea worth thinking about.

  6. I am concerned that disabled folks will not be able to use the ladder. How does one descend the ladder with limited leg strength,limited arm strength or balance issues.

  7. From James:
    As long as there is a solid locking mechanism and strong hinges a standard cellar door would suffice, but you would still need at least one entry to be to the ICC-500 standard to ensure safety. A standard door always runs the risk of penetration so my suggestion would be to have the stronger plate steel door or hatch at ground level which offer the most protection, and have a standard aluminum or wood door to enter the safety shelter. The ICC-500 allows for that configuration because it is underground and the flight path of a projectile has a near 0% chance of actually entering the safety shelter, especially through the steel door/hatch.

    I hope this helps!

  8. Got a reply back quick. James told me it’s a hatch at ground level and a plate steel door to enter the vault. A quarter inch plate steel door can be bought online or a welder can make one.

  9. Thanks Owen. I sent them an email asking about the picture of it from their site. It just seems reasonable that if you build a good shelter, the door would need to be a pretty strong. And, perhaps thicker with a seal or something. I’ll let you know what I find out. Folks probably could use the information IF it is a special type of door if they’re considering building a shelter.

  10. Thanks Owen
    I’m in favor of supporting a veteran owned business. The door is what seems like a high dollar buy. I could be wrong but,…. Do you know anything about these types of doors? The cost etc. They’ve got a good site for all to check out.

    • That looks like a standard steel cellar door. They’re very common. But I didn’t read through everything. Maybe it’s a special door.


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