Building A Safe Room Q&A


Q: What is the cost of installing a safe room in a new home or small business?

May 4, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) – A: Costs for construction of both vary across the United States. The cost for constructing a safe room which can double as a master closet, bathroom, or utility room, inside a new home or small business can range from approximately $4,500 to $8,500. This budget would provide an 8-foot by 8-foot safe room. A 14-foot by 14-foot safe room could cost $15,000 to $25,000.

Costs vary significantly depending on the following factors:

  • size
  • location inside the building
  • number of exterior home walls used in the construction
  • type of door
  • type of foundation
  • location of the home

Q:  Can I install a safe room in my existing home?

A: Installing a safe room in an existing home is more expensive than installing the same safe room in a new home under construction. An architect or engineer should be consulted to address the structural issues and the debris protection criteria, even when not required by the local building department.

Q:  Can I build a safe room on my own?

A: Maybe. Some pre-fabricated safe rooms are available that require less building construction experience to successfully install. Before you buy, make sure that it meets the FEMA safe room design and protection criteria. Local codes will apply.

The National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) is a non-profit organization with a quality verification and seal program. Members of the NSSA that manufacture and construct residential safe rooms submit their designs to the NSSA for third-party design reviews to ensure verification of compliance with FEMA criteria. This organization is also helpful in validating vendor claims of compliance with FEMA criteria for safe rooms. Their Web site ( is a good place to find verified safe room vendors.

Q:  Where can I find additional information and plans for safe room construction?
A: You can order FEMA’s publication 320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room inside Your Home or Small Business. It contains construction plans and specifications.  Call 800-480-2520 or visit

Q:  Are safe rooms recommended for homes in hurricane-prone areas?

A: Maybe.  The first consideration is to obey evacuation guidance.  Next, you don’t want to put yourself in an area subject to flooding.  A residential safe room should not be located in any of the following areas:

  • Coastal high hazard areas or other areas known to be subject to high-velocity wave action
  • Areas seaward of the limit of moderate wave action where mapped, also referred to as the coastal “A” zone
  • Floodways
  • Areas subject to coastal storm surge inundation associated with category 4 or 5 hurricanes

Q:  My house has a basement; do I need a safe room?

A: Some strong tornadoes have resulted in loss of the floor framing, collapse of basement walls, and death and injuries to individuals taking refuge in a basement. What constitutes an acceptable level of protection is an individual decision. Basements are a good location to install or build a safe room, but access for handicapped or physically challenged individuals may need to be considered. The flood risk of your location may also affect whether or not it is appropriate to place a safe room in your basement.  Safe rooms should not be located in flood prone areas, mapped or not.

When appropriate, in-ground and basement safe rooms provide the highest level of protection against missiles and falling debris because they are typically shielded from direct forces of wind and debris; however, above-ground designs that meet FEMA criteria will provide near-absolute protection. The most convenient location in most homes is in the basement.  An in-ground safe room can be installed beneath a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or concrete garage floor.

Q:  Are inspections required?

A: Obtaining the proper building permits and inspections is important for all construction.

Q:  How do I find vendors for shelters and more information about safe room construction?

A: The designs that FEMA recommends can be built by most residential contractors. If you are unsure a safe room or shelter product meets the FEMA criteria, contact your local or state emergency management office or FEMA via email at ">. The Wind Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University also provides technical guidance about safe rooms and shelters.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

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