Origin of NSSA
The National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) grew out of a concern for storm shelter quality after the Oklahoma City tornadoes of May 1999. Concept of the above ground storm shelter, called an in-residence shelter, had been introduced in the Civil Engineer Magazine twenty five years earlier. Redevelopment of the shelter concept had reached the point where Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had published a booklet FEMA 320 entitled “Taking Shelter From the Storm-Building a Safe Room Inside Your House or Small Business”.
State of Oklahoma decided to use substantial mitigation funding made available by FEMA to supplement the construction of storm shelters in Oklahoma. This incentive program created an unprecedented demand for shelters within a short period of time. Home builders responded to the created market for storm shelters, building primarily those shelters featured in FEMA 320. For these shelters, building inspectors were charged with ascertaining compliance with FEMA 320. Manufacturers also responded to the market for above ground shelters by creating an exciting array of manufactured shelters or kits to be assembled into storm shelters. Since no specifications were available it was required that shelters be tested for debris impact resistance and that they have an engineer’s seal. As one might expect in any new industry, many quality issues surfaced. Few engineers were both qualified and willing to design storm shelters to verify quality of existing designs. There was no standard available for shelters not shown in FEMA 320. Those performing debris impact tests as well as the manufacturers of quality products became painfully aware of quality problems within the newly founded industry. Within the first year after the Oklahoma City disaster, more than 20 companies had their manufactured shelters tested at Texas Tech University for debris impact resistance. Dr. Kiesling invited those companies to a meeting at Texas Tech University in February of 2000 to address issues of quality in the storm shelter industry. The National Storm Shelter Association was conceived and Lubbock Texas was designated as its headquarters.
The purpose of the National Storm Shelter Association is to foster quality by recognizing and distinguishing the shelter producers and products who meet a high standard of quality. They are entitled to affix a seal to their shelters atesting compliance with applicable standards. But in the beginning there was no standard! Hence, the first major undertaking of the NSSA was to develop an industry standard. Almost a year was consumed in evolving the first draft of an industry standard for storm shelters.
Criteria for Producer Member grade in the NSSA requires that shelter producers-builders or manufacturers-comply with FEMA 320 for site-built storm shelters or that they have their shelters tested for debris impact at a NSSA approved facility and that they have their designs and engineering calculations verified by a third party engineering company to be in compliance with the standard.
For a variety of reasons, few shelter producers have “gone the distance” to meet the requirements for membership in NSSA. Nevertheless, code development continued within NSSA with the intent of evolving the industry standard into a national consensus standard. Fortunately, in July of 2002 an agreement was reached between the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) to develop a national consensus standard to be accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ICC-500 is the ICC/NSSA Standard for Design and Construction of Storm Shelters completed in 2008 and is available for adoption by code jurisdictions. An update to the 2008 edition of ICC-500 may be expected by 2013. ICC-500 may be purchased from the Interanational Code Council or from the National Storm Shelter Association.