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Prefabricated Storm Shelter

Ready-to-install exterior concrete and fiberglass structures with economical and low profile in-ground installation

A prefabricated storm shelter shows a low profile in a flat terrain installation

Storm shelters can help reduce the risk of injury and death caused by tornadoes and hurricanes. Prefabricated shelters, designed to withstand the high wind and flying debris of Category 5 hurricanes and F5 tornadoes, are available for in-home and exterior installation.

Ready-to-install exterior concrete, metal, and fiberglass storm shelters are available for low profile in-ground installation on flat or sloped terrain. In-home shelters are anchored to the home's foundation and come in a variety of materials and configurations. Most in-home units can double as functional living space. Storm shelters vary in size, with a typical size about 6' x 8'. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends six square feet of area per person and a means of ventilating the space is required. Handicap-accessible models are available.

Manufacturers offer various sizes, access methods, and features which can include carpeting, seating, and an emergency jack to remove exit door obstructions, among others.


At prices ranging from $2000 to $8000, these shelters are an inexpensive way to protect life when dangerous storms and other conditions can occur.

Safety and Disaster Mitigation

These shelter are made to withstand tornadoe strength winds and projectile impacts. They will provide protection for people when conditions exceed those that typical houses can withstand.


High bedrock or water tables can limit placement, or add costs for excavation and site work for exterior shelters. Setback and coverage issues must also be considered. If shelters are to be installed at home, any restructuring of the home should be approved by an engineer and installation should be performed by a professional. Some companies require installation by factory-authorized installers.

Installed costs run from about $2,000 (for a small concrete in-ground shelter) to over $14,000 for a large in-home shelter with custom finishing.

Not Applicable

The National Storm Shelter Association maintains an Association Standard for the Design, Construction, and Performance of Storm Shelters, which is consistent with FEMA Publication 320 Taking Shelter form the Storm, FEMA Publication 361 Design and Construction Guidance for Community Shelters, and ASCE 7-98 Minimum Design Loads for Building and Other Structures. The 2006 version of the International Residential Code will contain language regarding storm shelters.

Not Applicable

Installation varies depending on the type of material the concrete is composed of, whether the shelter will be located inside or outside the home, above or below grade, and on flat or hilly terrain. It is recommended that installation be performed by a professional, and some manufacturers require that a factory-authorized installation professional be used. In some cases, a professional engineer’s approval of the installation is required.

For exterior shelters, excavation and site preparation is necessary. Installation is possible on both flat and hilly terrain. In-ground concrete shelters typically require no additional anchoring system, while fiberglass units are anchored to a concrete slab.

In-home prefabricated shelters are typically installed in a few hours, while in-home shelters made from prefabricated panels require more time for installation. In home shelters should follow installation guidelines provided by the manufacturer or a professional engineer.

Not Applicable

Storm shelters can save lives and, therefore, are beneficial in areas where hurricanes and tornadoes are prevalent. Most shelters are resistant to varying environmental conditions and will last for several years. In-home shelters can take up valuable floor space, although most can serve as functional living space as well as a storm shelter.

Disclaimer: The information on the system, product or material presented herein is provided for informational purposes only. The technical descriptions, details, requirements, and limitations expressed do not constitute an endorsement, approval, or acceptance of the subject matter by the NAHB Research Center. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information. Full reproduction, without modification, is permissible.