I hope you were able to catch my story on Thursday regarding the storm shelter research underway at UAB. If you’ve ever heard me speak you know that the one thing I preach is construction with storm safety in mind. As a home owner, I know adding a storm shelter can be quite challenging. Being underground during a tornado threat is always recommended but sometimes covenants, the type of landscape, and accessibility issues may prevent underground designs.
After the tornado struck Tuscaloosa in 2000 we saw a big boom locally in the construction of in-home safe rooms. Often these are constructed as a reinforced closet space, with a FEMA approved door. I had an opportunity to talk to a local building contractor last year and he said for established homes, adding one of these rooms can be a challenge. This may require walls to be removed or plumbing and electrical wiring to be re-routed.
Recently researchers at UAB successfully tested a new panel that is made of an environmentally friendly material. The test involved using an air cannon to force two-by-fours into the panels at a velocity of 100 mph. This is the standard set forth by the National Storm Shelter Association. Since the panels met the standard for tornadoes they also meet the standards for hurricanes.
Dr. Uday Vaidya is leading the team at UAB and hopes they will be commercially available next year. He says what makes these panels so unique is that they are uniquely mobile. You pick the room and install the individual panels by connecting them. The goal is for the completed unit to be anchored to the the homes foundation. Furthermore, they are a green, light-weight, and sustainable material. I certainly think this could be a huge break through for tornado prone cities across the country. We will continue to follow Dr. Vaidya’s progress and we wish his team the best of luck in the quest to develop the storm shelter of the future. Click here for the full report from the team at UAB.
Fox6 Meteorologist Wes Wyatt