THV Wants to Know: What to look for in a tornado shelter

MAYFLOWER, Ark. (KTHV) - After a high-level EF-4 tornado ripped through central Arkansas on April 27, demolishing neighborhoods and killing 16 people, many residents in the area are now reconsidering the area they have called their "safe place."

The storms have had people thinking seriously about investing in a storm shelter and evaluating their safe rooms, causing Tornado Shelter Systems to be busier than ever before; the company is getting the same amount of orders in two days as it typically would in a month.

"A lot of people really got scared this time," explained worker Alisa Smith.

That includes Brandon Barnett, who went to the store looking for a shelter after the tornado hit.

"With a nine month old baby, I decided it would probably be the time to buy one," said Barnett, who purchased an underground storm shelter to house 12 people.

"(I want to be safe) just in case family and friends are over," he said.

Smith has a few suggestions for people looking to invest in a storm shelter:

  • Get one that is built to withstand an EF-5 tornado.
  • Get one with shelter doors that open inward, not outward
  • Always ask if it has gone through the Texas Tec Wind Tunnel, which means it has been tested to withstand 250 mph winds

"A lot of times when we have storms like this, they'll be a lot of companies that will just pop up. Anybody that does welding, thinks they can build a shelter and that's not always true," Smith explained, stressing the importance of getting a shelter from a reputable company.

Smith said there is not a sales tax on safe rooms in Arkansas, so stay away from a company that is charging a tax on it.

Many of those shelters start at $4,000; but if you buy a shelter, you could get some of that money back.

You can apply for a grant to get back about $1,000 per shelter. But those rebates are distributed on a first-come/first-serve basis; this year, the Arkansas shelter rebate program has about $1.25 million and that money is available in July.

For more information on the rebate program, click here:

List of reputable distributors/manufacturers, according to Smith:

  • Tornado Shelter System
  • Mighty Metal Products
  • Safe Home Shelters
  • Southern Illinois Storm Shelters
  • Rawls Concrete Shelter


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