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Thread: Storm Shelters

  1. #1
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    Default Storm Shelters

    Insipired by Galixieman's concerns expressed on the credit crunch thread.

    I have a cement storm shelter. It is cramed with supplies that would only be blown away if stored in the house or garage or one of my out buliding if a tornado hit.

    I have been looking to put in a second underground shelter to accomidate , either more supplies or maybe even the people I already have.

    Based on my existing shelter and conversations with shelter manifactuers, I have some serious concerns about the way shelters are designed.

    1. My existing shelter accumilates black widow spiders, obviously you cannot hermetically seal the shelter , you do need air to breath... spraying poisons in a small enclosed space that you may need to occupy , especially with young grandchildren does not seem a good option, does anybody have any thoughts.

    2. the shelter has only one exit, tornados drop cars and trees in inconvienent places, perhaps blocking the exit, any thoughts on emergency exit... I was thinking hydralic jack and some form of a ram that could force the door from inside.. any thoughts on if the floor could handle such a load as a large tree being forced up by a hydralic ram without colapsing?

    3. No shelter maker currently provides for a way to unlock the shelter door from inside, if it was locked from the outside.

    4, I do not concider the door lock secure enough for the storage of firearms in the shelter, getting a decent safe down the very narrow and steep stairs seems problematic, and I cannot figure out a good way to secure the safe to the wall or floor that would not risk compromising the water tight integrety of the shelter.

    5. I would like to mount some small TV cameras outside the shelter that would allow me to see what is happening above, any thought on tornado proof camera mounts. the small computer monitor types that I could jack into a laptop. Any experenice with the small cheap IR sensitive type cameras incase the storm hits at night?

    6. Same as 5 but for attennas for ham, shortwave, GMRS type radios... cell phone reception sucks inside the shelter.

    I cannot find a shelter , be it concrete , fiberglass, or steel that provides these features as standard. One fiberglass shelter maker did have the hydralic ram option the first year they made them , but claims thier insurance company forced them to delete the option due to liability concerns. All manifactuers say just notify the local fire department of your shelter location and they will come and clear the entrance for you. the local volunteer fire department will not give me a time estimate as to how long it might take to respond because the scope of damage from any given tornado is not predictable and people safe, but traped in a shelter would have to wait until search for injured is completed.

    Any discusion, suggestions experences would be appreciated.

    Galaxieman?

  2. #2
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    sounds like yor efed!! have you thought bout n escape tunnel going off to somewhere that would double as a spider hole? situating the cellar where water is not a problem and properly ditching it may help there
    rig the outside locking mechanism to be removable when you go in it? cut down all trees that are near it to cut down on the odds of one of them falling on the door. is the door metal maybe a battery powered metal saw to cut the door open enough to get out. sounds like you have toomany supplies stored in there if there is no room for you or your dogs. kinda defeats the purpose of the shelter in which case a second one is in order. spiders and snakes have always been a problem in storm cellers tried garlic/pepper tea? its a perfect habitat for spiders especially black widders.

  3. #3
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    Like the idea of the metal saw.. I will have to look into that. I have , of course cut back all the trees that might be a problem on my property... took out 17 sixty foot loblolly pines and a couple of large Sour Cherry that could fall on the house or shelter couple years back.
    I was more conderned with perhaps the house or signifcant wreckage from the house or a neighbors car or tree coming down on the shelter.

  4. #4
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    This is definitely a survival/preparedness topic. Galixieman should be pleased. An interesting problem that will require some deep thought (no pun intended or maybe just a little). I never considered an underground shelter since here in south Florida it would become a swimming pool, although maybe not now during our drought. One thing that seems clear to me is that you might, in fact, be able to seal your shelter enough to keep the spiders out by converting the entrance into a gasketed ships hatch type of affair and adding a ventilation stack with screens or filters to keep the little critters out. here's one company that I found with a quick Google search for "ships hatches."
    http://marine-doors-hatches.com/doors.html
    For adding a second egress I would think about cutting out one side and adding at least 20 or 30 feet of culvert pipe that could connect to the second shelter or to another hatched opening. As for the rest of your concerns it's going to take me awhile to think of something.
    Regards, Alan K.
    Available for Cabinet level positions, consultation on matters of foreign policy, weddings and bar-mitzvahs. Will work for gold or guns.

  5. #5
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    I have two vent stacks with the whirrly-gig spinner thingies ( thats is a technical term ) , and yeah I need some filters .. right now my "Fix" is cutting 6" circles out of some furnace filters and shoving them up in there with duct tape.

    But who knows what wisdom is waiting to post ? So I ask for ideas.

    Elmer look at the fiberglass spherical type, they do not leak from underground water and there are supposed to be some sort of anchor system to keep them from flaoting up out of the ground.

    I went with steel reienforced concrete because the red clay here , when saturated with water has the crushing capaicity of a D-9 Cat on the sidewalls from hydralic pressure.

  6. #6
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    Not really interested in installing a shelter. Have a concrete block house with a new roof, properly strapped to the walls according to code, and all of the windows have Miami-Dade County approved hurricane shutters. The tornadoes that accompany a hurricane are short lived and nowhere near as powerful as those in the plains states. When the storms get bad we hunker down in an interior closet and pray. Not much else to do.
    Regards, Alan K.
    Available for Cabinet level positions, consultation on matters of foreign policy, weddings and bar-mitzvahs. Will work for gold or guns.

  7. #7
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    Elmer that is not something I innvestigated, above ground shelters. Might be what I need , build it right over my underground ... sorta like an outhouse :D. What can you tell me about them ?

  8. #8
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    It's just my house. Concrete block is typical of Florida construction. Some older neighborhoods have withstood hurricanes since the 1940's. In 1992 during Hurricane Andrew there was a fairly new development called Country Walk. Many of those homes were destroyed because they had a second story made of wood on top of the block first floor. Once the roof was lifted, or the walls turned to kindling, they blew apart. The first floor's walls were intact but there was nothing left of the second floors or the contents. I'll never live in a wood framed home. I still have a picture of a 2x4 that went through a pine tree like a spear not too far from where I was living then. Debris can go right through brick or block too unless the block is concrete filled. Miami-Dade County created a whole new set of construction rules to prevent that kind of damage. I recommend you do a Google search of "Hurricane Andrew", "Miami-Dade County Hurricane Code" and finally "Hurricane proof homes." That should give you a pretty good idea. Build a structure that meets Dade County code and it should stand up to 150 to 200 mph winds, but tornadoes can exceed that.
    Regards, Alan K.
    Available for Cabinet level positions, consultation on matters of foreign policy, weddings and bar-mitzvahs. Will work for gold or guns.

  9. #9
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    Thanks will do. Yeah I need 250 mph+ impact resistant saw a pine needle driven thru a 2x4 in a big Tornado here back in 1975.... I got here back in 76. the 2x4 was on display at the Ordnance School.
    Funny Story:

    They had just built a new school house for the Ordnance School... the guy that designed it somehow left bay doors off the plans but we had plenty of Bay's , just no way to get the missles into them. Tornado removed the building before it was opened to the school.. school got a free do-over. On the do-over they decided to seek Ordnance input on the layout.

  10. #10
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    Ever notice , when a bank gets hit , the vault is always still standing ?

    12 inch concrete with rebar on 2 inch centers , 6 layers .

    google webster safe & lock co. memphis tn.

    They have a nice assortment of vault doors .

    You can do it mostly all by yourself .

    Also google tornado shelters .

    There are companies that will come out and build a vault for you .

    I just buried a 5000 gallon boiler tank with a homemade swivel hatch for access .

    You can pick them up cheap at scrap metal yards or factory closing auctions.

  11. #11
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    Can't be much help as due to my flavor of natural disaster (earthquakes) the whole concept of a shelter constructed of non-ductile material as a hedge against any sort of badness just doesn't compute. We do have lots of black widows out here though, and I've spent time in the tropics where there are far nastier things.
    Take comfort in the fact that black widows are not prone to biting and must be majorly annoyed before doing so. Basically, you have to somehow crush one against bare skin by accident. I've cleaned up old buildings where I literally had the darn things falling in my face. If it's real bad, sleep in hammocks and grease the ropes with vasoline or cosmoline or whatever so nothing can climb them without getting stuck. Shake out and inspect bedding and clothing (and shoes) prior to use. Harden yourself against "the willies" and avoid the temptation to slap at anything you feel crawling on you.

  12. #12
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    Many Septic Tank companies install vaults as shelters.

    I have even seen one local company link a vault with an existing shelter via large sewage or drainage pipe.

    It was an interesting and kind of cheap set up.

    The person using it had been living in it for a couple of months undetected.

    (Wanted for probation violations)
    Semper Fi,
    ret_Marine2003

    Located at American Legion post 300, somewhere in Northern Michigan.

  13. #13
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    old timers round here in central texas built their cellars w/ cedar/boi'darc posts and dirt. lots of them still 'standing' if you know where to look. filled up w/ dirt/sediment but cedar/osage orange posts still there. BUT they are prone to water leakages and vermin as it is mostly impossible to seal them like a cement or metal one. might be a viable alternate if you are looking for a quick cheap cellar.

  14. #14
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    For the spiders, go in once a week with a shop vac and vacum them up. Keep the population surpressed like that, and if TSHTF and you do need to shelter, you won't need to deal with near as many.

    Black widows can get aggressive when defending her egg case. Otherwise, as pointed out, you have to work to get bitten.

  15. #15
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    This is a very good post!
    It started me thinking.

    Thanks,
    Proshot
    Perfection is a powerful statement!

  16. #16
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    First I gotta know what the interest rate on the student loan is.... :D:D:D

    Seriously, I have TONS of ideas for shelters, some aspects inspired by Hitlers bunkers, some by the Greenbriar Hotel and some from forums like this. Unfortunately I can not put any into practice at my current abode (townhouse).
    I really really like the idea of a hydraulic ram in case debris blocks the door.
    Ammosgt, you mentioned your was of steel reinforced concrete, I see no reason it wouldn't support the ram/jack especially if you had some sorta plate maybe a foot square to spread the load. I'd make sure the door was strong enough too or you just might end up punching holes through it.
    I'd always have at least a second way out, one would be straight up with the hatch buried maybe 6" below the surface, shouldn't be difficult at all to push open the hatch through a little dirt and grass. With an escape hatch I think 2 boulders maybe 4-5' diameter on either side of it with enough room at the bottom, due to the curve of the boulders, to open the hatch and crawl out. A barricade or shelter for your shelter so to speak.
    This would make the space between the mid sections pretty close/small and if heavy stuff was dropped right over the hatch, large heavy parts wouldn't make it to the ground and covering your escape hatch.

    As for spiders and other creepy crawly things, I would assume chucking a bug bomb or spraying it once every few months wouldn't leave any appreciable amounts of poison in the shelter, unless that same day is the day the SHTF. It wont get them all but at least it would keep the population down.

    I'd be creeped out by a door that can lock from the outside if I was inside, so like some one else said, some kind of latch that can be simply removed (once unlocked) and taken inside with you. I'm thinking a simple large bolt that when you open and slide it back you can just slide it all the way out.

    I envision my ideal shelter having a couple/several rooms or chambers rather then one large one, so in your case adding another shelter connected with culvert pipes (as some one mentioned) falls right in those lines. I guess it wouldn't have to be 20-30, at least 5 should do.

    A second shelter built over the first (disguised as a shed) isn't a bad idea, it can be a good place for one of the emergency escape hatches and a secure location for HAM/CB antennas, and CCTV cameras if you go that route. It would suck to have the antenna fixed to a tree, telephone pole or side of the house then have that get knocked over breaking the wires. Just in case the tornado hit directly on the above ground shelter or if it dropped a car directly on it, I wouldn't store anything you couldn't do without for several days, but rather just have stuff that if they survive are "nice extras" to have during this time. Extra tools like chain saws to clear away debris and/or hammer, nails to board up/shore up the house. You can have your vent stack come up through this too. Or even have a small generator with a remote start from the underground.

    How close is your shelter to the house? Is your access through the basement? If not and it is close enough consider a second exit through the basement. Reinforce an area around the door to not only have a better chance of getting to door open but also a place for the "nice extras" you don't really need inside the main shelter.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Galaxieman View Post
    With an escape hatch I think 2 boulders maybe 4-5' diameter on either side of it with enough room at the bottom, due to the curve of the boulders, to open the hatch and crawl out. A barricade or shelter for your shelter so to speak.
    This would make the space between the mid sections pretty close/small and if heavy stuff was dropped right over the hatch, large heavy parts wouldn't make it to the ground and covering your escape hatch.
    what if a strong wind blows them boulders ontop of your hatch???
    Hey just kidding , I like that idea

  18. #18
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    I sure wish I had a basement... i like the rock Idea as well.. if i ever do add on to the house again , you better believe it will have a basement. Shelter entrance is about 10 feet from the back door.... I am wondering about a polycarbonate porthole type window in the door.. would let in light as well. I called a locksmith and asked about installing a deadbolt lock keyworked outside simple flip lever inside... he looked at me like I was crazy....said "in 30 years I have never heard of such a thing".

  19. #19
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    OK, NOW I know what type of shelter you have. I just googled tornado shelter and see they are all premade. In all my ramblings I was thinking of made on site to owners specs/needs. Not that it changes too much, just so you know where I was going with some of the ideas.

    Huh, what didn't the locksmith ever hear of, a dead bolt on a storm shelter door, or a dead bolt keyed from the outside with the simple twist operation inside? Umm thats exactly how my front house door is as well as the side garage door, key on the outside (duh) and little "T" shaped twist on the inside. Pretty common 'round here.


    Oh the bolt in my first post I was thinking of this on some big heavy duty door
    as if an on site shelter/bunker, like the little slide bolts you might have on a pantry door but BIGGER...skip it I guess.
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  20. #20
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    Locksmith had never heard of that deadbolt arrangment on a storm shelter.

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