Information for Homeowners
It can be confusing and overwhelming when purchasing a storm shelter or safe room. The NSSA can help you make the right choices and simplify the process by verifying the engineering and testing requirements for storm shelters ahead of time.
The first and most important step in purchasing a storm shelter is to buy a shelter that meets all compliance standards. The Standards and Guidelines set forth by the International Code Council (ICC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dictate the engineering design standards, debris impact testing requirements, proper installation practices, and inspection requirements that should be followed for the construction of all residential storm shelters or safe rooms. The following Standards and Guidelines apply to all storm shelters or safe rooms:
ICC 500-2014 “ICC/NSSA Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters”
FEMA P-320, Fourth Edition, December 2014, “Taking Shelter from the Storm” Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business.
FEMA P-361, Third Edition, March 2015, “Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes” Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms.
You can purchase the ICC 500-2014 Standard online and you can view the FEMA publications 320 &361 on their website.
STOP! – These publications are very informative, especially for engineers and compliance officials, but they can overwhelm the average consumer. You just want to make sure the manufacturer follows these standards. The problem is, the selling of storm shelters or safe rooms is not a regulated business, meaning that while these standards have been adopted nationwide, there is not a regulatory agency overseeing compliance. Buyer beware is the reality.
Purpose of NSSA
The NSSA was formed as a non-profit association that invites manufacturers of storm shelters to join an organization which not only requires their shelters comply with the standards, but also verifies compliance by third party review. The Producer (manufacturer) submits complete design plans and specifications, impact testing results, and is responsible for required installation and inspection procedures. A third party registered engineer reviews these documents and submits the findings to the NSSA. If the shelter is deemed to meet all standards, the NSSA will issue a seal to the Producer to be attached to each individual shelter upon completion of installation verifying the shelter is in compliance. The Producer must also submit a Certificate of Installation to our offices to complete the process. NSSA retains the exact location of each shelter and seal number in our offices, for post emergency identification.
NSSA Producer Members
Now that you know what the NSSA requires of our members, you might ask, who would subject themselves to the costs of testing and the scrutiny of a third party engineer if it isn’t required by law? The answer is the same from almost every member, Pride of Ownership. The Producers know that their products save lives and this comes with a great deal of responsibility and liability. They want the designs they have engineered to be put to the test and have the confidence they will pass peer review. The NSSA seal verifies the shelter meets all compliance requirements and our Producers use it to certify to the consumer that they meet or exceed these requirements.
Buying Shelters from Manufacturers that are not NSSA Members
Burden of compliance is your responsibility. NSSA effectively does the job of due diligence for you.
If a manufacturer has impact testing results and registered engineering reports stating compliance with FEMA and ICC, you can normally rely on these reports. However, you will not have the benefit of an independent third party engineering review of all the documents.
Installation of the storm shelters, whether above or below ground, is critical to the ultimate reliability and effectiveness during a tornado or other extreme wind event. Installation checklists, ongoing training of installers, foundation inspections, and proper anchoring procedures are all areas of concern. NSSA emphasizes training and workshops to help our members openly discuss better installation procedures.
If you have an issue with the quality of the storm shelter after the product is installed, it becomes an issue between you and the manufacturer. The NSSA Producer members have pledged to be honest and fair in all aspects of their business. The NSSA will assist the consumer in resolving differences with our members regarding quality and installation of shelters with our seal.