The NSSA was formed in 2001 to ensure the highest quality of manufactured and constructed storm shelters for protecting people from injury or loss of life from the effects of tornadoes, hurricanes and other devastating natural disasters. The association is self-policing to maintain public confidence and respect for the storm shelter industry. We invite you to check out our website and find out, “How you can discern quality in a Safe Room.” or How you can be a part of our growing organization.
Wind Engineering Beginnings
Research into improving buildings for resisting extreme winds began with the 1970 Lubbock tornado. Twenty-six people were killed and about 1/3 of the city of 160,000 people was heavily damaged or destroyed. Texas Tech researchers produced a comprehensive documentary of building damage, the first of its kind. The Wind Science and Engineering Research Center (WiSE) was developed and now after more than 40 years of research and education on the impact of wind on structures and human life and to better support the interdisciplinary research and educational opportunities in wind science, engineering and energy, TTU created the NWI (National Wind Institute-2012). The institute combines the former Wind Science and Engineering (WiSE) Research Center and the Texas Wind Energy Institute (TWEI) into one entity to support the overall wind enterprise at Texas Tech University.
Concept of Shelter Idea
The concept of the aboveground storm shelter was presented in Civil Engineering magazine in 1974 by Texas Tech faculty member Dr. Ernst Kiesling and by Graduate Student David Goolsby. Intermittent development continued as available personnel and funding permitted.
Jarell, TX Tornado, 1997
The total devastation of a small subdivision outside of Jarrell, TX received national attention and news coverage. Dateline NBC aired a special program covering the devastation and featured the aboveground storm shelter developed at Texas Tech University. Many regional and local television companies and newspapers subsequently featured the aboveground storm shelter concept after severe storms struck in their areas.
Publication of FEMA 320
Personnel of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) observed the high level of interest in storm shelters among the public and published a prescriptive design booklet entitled, Taking Shelter from the Storm. The First Edition was published in October 1998, the Second Edition in August 1999. To date 200,000 copies have been printed and most of them have been distributed. The booklet, a copy of which is enclosed, is a prescriptive guidebook for design of small residential shelters.
Oklahoma City Area Tornados, May 1999
The widespread devastation of the Oklahoma City area tornadoes received widespread coverage in the media. An above ground storm shelter survived the F5 tornado and also received widespread publicity. FEMA and the State of Oklahoma put in place incentives for building storm shelters in houses that were being built or rebuilt after the tornado. Fortunately, the FEMA 320 publication was available to guide the design and construction of aboveground storm shelters. It did not cover underground shelters. Because of the lack of standards and familiarity with the key elements of design, many quality problems were observed.
Organization of NSSA
Criteria for approval of shelter incentive grants in Oklahoma for shelter designs not covered in FEMA 320 included debris impact testing. By the end of year 1999, more than 20 companies who manufacture above ground storm shelters had had their products tested at Texas Tech University, the only laboratory designated by FEMA to conduct such tests. In February 2000, Dr. Ernst Kiesling invited these companies to a meeting at Texas Tech to address issues of quality in storm shelters. The National Storm Shelter Association was conceived and Lubbock, Texas was designated as its headquarters.
The National Storm Shelter Association held its first annual meeting in conjunction with the Oklahoma City Symposium in May 2000, on the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City area tornadoes. At that time, NSSA adopted a set of preliminary bylaws and elected its first Board of Directors. Mr. James Waller, P.E., was elected President. Committees were formed with specific charges. Work began in earnest on developing an industry standard of quality for storm shelter design, construction, and installation.
Kiesling Appointed Executive Director
During the Disaster Symposium and Exhibition in Tulsa, OK, May 2001, the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of NSSA appointed Dr. Ernst Kiesling, a pioneer in shelter development, to serve as Executive Director of NSSA. Work continued in the evolution of the industry standard and in development of bylaws for the Association.
NSSA Standard Adopted by Board of Directors
By a special meeting via the internet, the Directors adopted the NSSA Standard. It was viewed as an evolving document, to undergo periodic changes and eventually evolving into a national consensus standard.
The revised bylaws including definition and administration of the seal program were adopted in January 2002.
In May 2002, NSSA signed an agreement with the Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc. of the International Code Council to develop a national consensus standard for storm shelters. The International Code Council/National Storm Shelter Association (ICC/NSSA) Standard for Design and Construction of Storm Shelters is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). That standard was approved June 2008. Since then a second edition of the standard has been published (ICC/NSSA 500-2014) and in February 2016 the ICC/500-2014 Standard and Commentary was published. The ICC/NSSA Commentary provideds a basic volume of knowledge as it pertains to the regulations set forth in the ICC/NSSA 500 2014. The commentary is to be used in conjunction with ICC/NSSA 2014 and not as a substitute for the standard itself. Either publication can be purchased throught NSSA a a nominal price.
Texas Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
Considerable mitigation funding became available to the State of Texas as a result of damage by Hurricane Rita in 2005. Funds were made available to several jurisdictions to rebate some construction costs of residential storm shelters and to partially fund construction of community shelters. The NSSA seal is required by some jurisdictions on residential shelters to qualify for the rebate. NSSA offers educational programs and other forms of assistance to participating communities to enhance shelter quality. Three courses on storm shelter design may be found on the ICC website, www.ICCcampus.org. These courses were developed with funding assistance from the HMGP program. The project was administered by the Hazard Mitigation Division of the Texas Department of Community Affairs.