Storm Shelters and Safe Rooms

Bob Schultheis
Natural Resource Engineering Specialist
University of Missouri Extension in Webster County

The devastating tornadoes that have hit Missouri in recent years have caused many Missourians to take a closer look at their vulnerability to nature's wrath and to make better preparations for surviving future storms.

Having a shelter or a safe room built into or near the home can help protect your family from injury or death caused by the dangerous forces of extreme winds.

Missouri is a high-risk state for high wind and tornadoes

All of Missouri is in Wind Zone IV, meaning wind gusts from severe storms can exceed 250 mph. The number of recorded tornadoes is 5 to 15 per 2,470 square miles for much of the state. Combined, these factors place the entire state at a high-risk level that warrants a shelter as the preferred method of protection.

Basic features of a shelter or safe room

In selecting a shelter or safe room, consider the following three factors.

  • Durability
    Is it strong enough that the walls, roof and door will withstand 250-mph winds and resist penetration by 100-mph wind-borne flying debris? Is it well-anchored to resist overturning and uplift? Does it have three dead-bolt locks, or the equivalent, on the access door?
  • Proximity
    Is it close to or inside your residence or place of work so you can quickly get to it? It should be readily accessible from all parts of the dwelling. Do you want it in-ground or above-ground? If in-ground, will the soils and drainage accommodate it and be in a flood-free area?
  • Accessibility
    Can you easily get into and out of it? Does it need to be wheelchair accessible? Does the door open outward or inward? Your shelter or safe room should be free of clutter.

You will need to decide between reinforced concrete, fabricated steel, Kevlar, or plywood and sheet steel. Commonly used house construction techniques are based on minimum building codes and generally don't provide adequate protection. Most Missouri counties do not have even these minimum building codes.

Resources for planning and building a shelter or safe room

To help homeowners and builders design and build shelters that withstand extreme wind speeds, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a 46-page booklet titled FEMA 320, Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room For Your Home or Small Business, which includes 18 pages of construction plans and cost estimates. You can get a free copy by

Whether you build a shelter or not, you can take these important steps to protect your family.

  • Prepare an emergency plan for dealing with disaster situations.
  • Put together an emergency supply kit for home, business and each vehicle.

More resources and information

Partial list of storm shelter and safe room manufacturers serving Missouri


This list of storm shelter and safe room manufacturers serving Missouri is not intended to be a complete list of manufacturers, and MU Extension does not imply endorsement by listing a firm.

There may be other local companies not listed here that make concrete storm shelters. They are usually listed in the Yellow Pages as the same companies that sell septic tanks.