A violent EF-4 tornado in Mayflower and Vilonia, Arkansas on April 27, 2014 killed a total of twelve people, but one of those fatalities came inside a storm shelter in the City of Mayflower.
From Analysis of the Above Ground Shelter Door Failure April 27, 2014 Tornado, Mayflower, Arkansas Larry J. Tanner and Ernst W. Kiesling
“Multi-story homes were destroyed or damaged and concrete road barriers were moved and overturned. Given these Damage Indicators and Degrees of Damage, the NWS rated the storm an EF-4 with winds estimated at 166-200 mph (267-322 km/h). (Wikipedia.org)
One death in Mayflower occurred when the storm door on the home above ground residential shelter was impacted by storm debris. According to the surviving homeowner, all three dead bolts were engaged initially. A missile of unknown weight and speed struck the center of the door which resulted in the door bending and failure of the center dead bolt and the shearing of the top dead bolt leading to the death of one of two occupants.”
The conclusion of the Texas Tech investigation is this: “It therefore appears that the door was not impacted by some astronomical object traveling at a high rate of speed. Door failure resulted from the improper usage of a door, frame, and hardware not intended for tornado safe rooms. Just because it was steel door did not qualify it to be a tornado safe room door. This tragedy highlights the dangers of the deviation from tested FEMA P-320 door assemblies.”
Analysis of the Above Ground Shelter Door Failure April 27, 2014 Tornado, Mayflower, Arkansas
Larry J. Tanner and Ernst W. Kiesling
I see new homes going up every day in Huntsville, and many of them have above-ground storm shelters (safe rooms) added to the plans at the time of construction. This is a good thing, but the safe room has to be built the right way! How do you know what’s right? Keep reading.
There are guidelines builders should be using to construct shelters, but I’m of the opinion that you should look at professionally-built shelters from reputable companies that can show proof of how their shelters fare in violent winds. I’m not knocking our contractors around here, but this is your family’s safety we’re talking about here!
FEMA P-320 standards should be applied to all above ground shelters. What is FEMA P-320? It “provides safe room designs that will show you and your builder/contractor how to construct a safe room for your home or small business. Design options include safe rooms located underneath, in the basement, in the garage, or in an interior room of a new home or small business. Other options also provide guidance on how to modify an existing home or small business to add a safe room in one of these areas. These safe rooms are designed to provide near-absolute protection for you, your family, or employees from the extreme winds expected during tornadoes and hurricanes and from flying debris, such as wood studs, that tornadoes and hurricanes usually create.”