Garage floor and outdoor, in-ground storm shelters are popular options for sheltering in place as tornado season is in full swing. These shelters are frequently used to shield users from debris that high winds from the storm might carry along at high speeds. However, one concern many people have is that these in-ground units might experience flooding which could render them unusable, lead to costs to repair them, or cause serious injury or death if they are occupied during a flood.
Knowing why a storm shelter might flood and how to prevent this from happening is a significant part of the decision process you will go through when you determine what kind of shelter is right for you and your family. Shelter Solutions of Arkansas understands this concern and is here to answer any questions you might have!
What Causes Storm Shelters to Flood?
Storm shelters flood when they are located in a flood-prone area such as within a 100-year floodplain, meaning the area has a one percent chance of flooding in any given year. Rising floodwaters in these areas could result in a storm shelter taking on water through its vents or floors if precautions are not made. Shelters built in unsafe areas might also pop out of the ground if not anchored properly, resulting in additional problems for the owner.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires any safe room designated as FEMA compliant to be “designed and constructed to the guidelines specified in FEMA P-361 – to which the drawings in FEMA P-320 were designed.” Shelter manufacturers cannot claim to meet FEMA standards if they do not follow these guidelines.
How to Prevent Flooding in a Storm Shelter
As weather patterns begin to change drastically, the worry about rising floodwaters becomes a bigger concern. However, there are steps that can be taken in order to limit the chances an in-ground storm shelter will flood.
Changing the grade of the soil (also called the slope of the soil) around the storm shelter opening is an effective way to prevent it from flooding. Rather than the waters flowing into the storm shelter, the soil grade helps the water flow away from the entrance. The soil should, if grading is done correct, be at least a six inch drop every 10 feet from the shelter’s opening.
Keeping moisture out of a storm shelter means keeping a strong seal around it. Look for cracks in the cement of storm shelters made of that materials, and look for any leaks or points when a storm shelter is made of other materials, such as metals.
If you are looking to seal up cracks in a concrete shelter, an epoxy sealant and waterproofing paint should do the trick. Keep in mind you should check your shelter for these problems during a dry period and not when storms are likely to occur.
Gutters and Downspouts
Is your in-ground shelter close to your home? If so, you must evaluate whether or not your gutters and downspouts are contributing to flooding in the shelter. This might happen if your gutters or downspouts are clogged and the water coming from them after a storm begins to follow a different path than usual, which might lead the rainwater straight to your shelter.
Make sure you clean out gutters and downspouts on a regular basis, especially after storms because leaves and other debris might clog them up. Purchase downspout extensions and consider installing a French drain to better distribute your water away from your shelter. If you follow these steps, you’ll less likely experience flooding in your shelter!
Storm Shelter Safety in Heavy Storms
As emphasized previously, storm shelters should be used during storms with high winds and debris rather than excessive downpours or threats of flooding. It is always a good idea to stay vigilant of warnings from meteorologists and get to a safe place appropriate for the forecast—shelters for extreme winds with risk of flying debris, and higher ground if flood warnings dominate the weather event.
It is always a good idea to have storm preparation resources and knowledge relevant to your region or an area you might be visiting.
Contact Shelter Solutions of Arkansas
If you are interested in installing a storm shelter on your property, Shelter Solutions of Arkansas has a wide variety of both in-ground and above ground safe rooms, with custom options available! Contact us to learn more!