The perfect way to build a simple tornado shelter is in your home basement or if you do not have a basement, add an addition on to the home. The room only has to be as big as you need it to fit the family, pets and some supplies.
The only difference with the shelter in the basement and as an addition onto the home is the ceiling and how it is made. The materials you need to make the tornado shelter are relatively cheap and you can make the shelter yourself. Don’t forget, some cities and towns require a building permit for such shelters, so be sure and check out whether you need one or not.
• Concrete blocks (cinder blocks)
• Steel door
• Wood to make footings (only for an addition)
• The heaviest steel sheet for the roof (or cement roof)
• Wire meshing
Determine the height and width of the tornado shelter you will need, depending on number of people in your family and how many supplies you want to store. For 5 people, it is recommended to have an area about 5′ wide x 6′ long. For 12 people, 6′ wide x 12′ long, and for 20 people, allow about 8′ wide x 16′ long.
Now you have the information you will need to buy enough of the cement blocks, cement, and bolts. This will also tell you the size you need for the steel roof. Account for the two feet under ground that you will dig to start the walls.
If making the simple tornado shelter outside as an addition or free standing building, measure out the area and use string to mark the area. Make the area six inches bigger than what you need for space inside. Dig the ground out two feet deep within the string area. This will be the floor and start of the walls.
Place the footings for the cement floor. Add the gravel and wire meshing. Then place the first row of cement block down that will be the start of the wall. Move the cement block in six inches so that you have a gap of six inches to add cement on the outside of the brick. Cement these together.
Now the cement can be poured. Pour inside the wall and smooth out. Then pour the cement on the outside of the brick wall and smooth out and allow drying for at least two days. Cover the hole to protect from rain.
Build the walls up by adding a block, cement and set. Repeat this until you have the desired height of the tornado shelter. Leave the opening for the door on the side away from the tornado path. Once the walls are done, it is time to add the door and the ceiling. Remember to rotate seams when adding the cement blocks.
Add the roof. This will be either a steel plate or a cement roof. Both types will hold up in the event of a tornado. Then attach the steel door with heavy-duty cement bolts. The door should open in and not out. There should be a heavy-duty latch or bar to help keep the door closed. Keep the door a little above ground level for any settling that may result.
You can then add the supplies to the simple tornado shelter so you are prepared. Flashlights and batteries, non-perishable foods and blankets and extra clothing should be included. Since the floor is cement and will be cold, you might want to keep a rug inside rolled up until you have a need to use the shelter. Keep some folding chairs inside to sit on and have some medical supplies.