Popularity of personal storm shelters increase after tornado

Popularity of personal storm shelters increase after Oklahoma tornado

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The shelter is meant to withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour, that's greater than a EF-5 tornado. The shelter is meant to withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour, that's greater than a EF-5 tornado.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - In the wake of the deadly Oklahoma tornado, many are considering putting a storm shelter in their homes.

Thirteen people survived in their block's only storm shelter in Moore, neighbors piling in for protection. In Tennessee, these cement shelters are becoming more common.

The Blankenship family installed their shelter after the deadly April 27, 2011 storms.

"We got ours a year and a half ago after a tornado came through about 10 miles away," Jackie Blankenship said.

As a retired police officer, Blankenship has seen his share of disasters first hand. And while he and his wife Debi haven't had to use their shelter yet, it's stocked and ready to go.

"I have a generator, five gallons of gas, a chainsaw, extension cord, lights, gallon of water, coffee pot, in case we need it," he said.

From the outside it looks like just a concrete box but inside the walls are eight inches thick, the ceiling and floor 12 inches, and the door weighs 260 pounds. The shelter is meant to withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour, that's greater than a EF-5 tornado.

Barger and Sons installed the Blankenship's shelter and thousands like it across the state.

"There's not even a question about a normal home compared to a structure that is designed and meets NNSA standards for a tornado," explained Eric Barger, co-owner of Barger and Sons.

The cost of the shelters range between $3,000 and $5,400.

They have both underground and above ground shelters with the ability to hold between eight and 13 people.

"Our neighbors know if something happens we'll let you in," Blankenship explained.

In Oklahoma, residents had 16 minutes before the tornado hit.  These shelters are built for easy access.

"It takes all of five seconds to get in and lock the door," Barger demonstrated.

For the Blankenships, it's a quick trip right outside their house, there when they need it most.

"It takes about two minutes," Blankenship said. I know when the sirens go off it's there for us, if we don't ever use it, it's been money well spent."

 

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