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Using Your In-Ground Shelter Effectively In the Event Of a Natural Disaster

Underground or in-ground shelters are literally a lifesaver during a natural disaster. Because they are in-ground shelters, you are protected from high winds, which cause the vast majority of injuries during a tornado or even during severe thunderstorms.

Injuries and fatalities are caused by blown debris, collapsing structures and downed power lines. Have your in-ground shelter installed and maintained by a reputable installer/contractor to ensure the safety of your family and yourself.

In-ground shelters are for protection from natural disasters so they must be readily accessible at all times. Obviously, the shelter must be waterproof and large enough to accommodate you and your family with considerations given to growth of your family. You should also consider neighbors and friends who may need protection along with room for emergency supplies such as food, water, blankets and so forth. Accessibility is important and in particular for small children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

When deciding on size and amenities you should consider what happens if your home is destroyed because of a tornado? Can you use your shelter as temporary living space? Some shelters are only for protection from the storm and only have room for seated individuals and emergency supplies.
There are several ways to illuminate and heat or cool your shelter, one way is by using generators and another is utilizing solar power that can recharge battery packs. Carefully consider illumination, plus heating and cooling options. Tornadoes can essentially strike at anytime of the year, so extreme weather conditions after the storm must be taken into account.

Connecting to the line that services your home means that when service is interrupted to your home, your shelter will go dark as well, so it is important that if you want or need power to your shelter you use sources other than your local power company. Generators must be protected and run above ground. Start the generator before the storm strikes to save precious time.

Keep your shelter clean and do not use it for storage of household goods. It is not a matter of if a storm will strike only a matter of when, so you must be prepared at all times. Do not allow children to use it as a playhouse or club house or otherwise take it over. The reason being is your emergency supplies may not be intact, or the shelter itself will not be ready in the event of an emergency.

Preparing For a Tornado

Tornadoes unlike hurricanes cannot be tracked by satellite imagery. Storms that generate tornadoes can however, be tracked. Tornadoes are predicted or forecasted based on weather conditions that can produce tornadoes. Once meteorologists indicate the current weather conditions can produce a tornado assume there will be one and prepare to go to your shelter. Do not wait until you see a funnel cloud before getting into your shelter because many storms can produce destructive straight-line winds that can bring down trees, blow debris and collapse structures.

Tornadoes move quickly, so your emergency supplies are not necessarily used during the storm but after. The following is a list of supplies that will allow you to sustain life in the days following a destructive tornado. You must be prepared for extended power disruptions, to include an interruption or contamination of your water source.

  • Three To Five day Supply of Drinking Water (One Gallon Per person)
  • Three To Five Day Supply Of Foods That Require Little To No Preparation
  • Emergency Heat Blankets Are Recommended Instead of Blankets From Your Home
  • Emergency Blankets Take Up Little Space And Their Insulating Abilities Are Not Effected Even
  • When Wet Or Damp One Blanket For Every Individual
  • First Aid Kit
  • Shovel
  • Axe
  • Tools For Emergency Repairs To Your Home
  • Tarps For Covering Holes In Your Home's Roof Or Walls
  • Insect Repellent
  • Portable Charcoal Grill And Or Camp Stove
  • One Gallon (Unopened) Plain Household Bleach For Emergency Water Purification
  • Medicine/Eyedropper For Measuring Bleach
  • Individual Water Containers/Canteens One For Each Family Member
  • Gloves
  • Study Shoes And Clothes Appropriate For the Season
  • Quality Nylon Rope For Lashing Tarps
  • Roll Of Duct Tape
  • Emergency Radio
  • Battery Operated Illumination
  • Matches/Lighters
  • Personal Hygiene Items

Adapt the list to include prescription medications and other personal preferences but do not overload your shelter. Keep your supplies in the shelter, and inventory every 90 days to check for expiration dates, charged batteries and to ensure nothing is missing. Turn off the main electrical breaker as well as any gas valves to the home just before leaving for the shelter. The electrical or gas system can be damaged and you should have it inspected before reconnecting services.

Practice exiting to the shelter, and shutting off gas valves and the main electrical breaker. Practice in daylight as well as, in darkness. It is very easy to become disoriented in the dark even when you are familiar with the area. Do not place anything between the shelter and the exits you will use to evacuate to the shelter. Keep in mind one or more emergency exits may be covered with debris so always have multiple exit plans, and you can even use a ground floor window. It is important you do a head count before and after and establish who goes into the shelter first and last. The first one in turns on lights and the last one in secures the entrance. Once inside do another head count.

These are the basics of using a storm shelter for survival. Your individual list may be a bit different depending upon your needs and the needs of your family.


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