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May 3, 2014

Rush on shelters leads to long waits

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

“A lot of jurisdictions do not have building inspectors that are well enough qualified to inspect a storm shelter,” Kiesling said. “It’s nothing like a building. You have a small slab that is anchored to a small concrete slab.”

Safety and a considerable monetary investment also is on the line, so Kiesling said it’s important that people choose shelter companies carefully and ask sound questions so they don’t find themselves trapped inside a bad shelter.

There are horror stories of doors getting ripped off shelters in the middle of tornadoes as people huddle inside, and FEMA has discovered shelters — particularly older ones —that weren’t built in compliance with standards, he said. The first shelter standards weren’t adopted until about 1999, he said.

Kiesling said there are a couple of questions consumers should always ask including, has the shelter been impact-tested; is there an engineering report for the design; how will it be ventilated; and, if it’s going to be installed above ground, how it is going to be anchored.

If a company can answer the questions confidently and directly, Kiesling said they’re probably legitimate, but “if they give you a blank stare, you might want to look elsewhere.”

Another red flag: claims that FEMA, Texas Tech or the NSSA has certified a company’s shelter. The organizations do not certify individual shelters, he said.

“If it says it’s NSSA approved or FEMA certified it’s a red flag because that’s an advertising scheme that’s not really validated,” he said.

 

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