With tornado season right around the corner, we decided to put some tips together to help you decide how to choose not only the right shelter, but the right installer too!
What are your needs?
- How many people are you trying to protect?
- Can those in your group get up and down stairs, or do they have physical limitations? (Those limitations can include Claustrophobia.)
- Do you want to be above ground or below ground?
Where do you live? Are you in a flood zone? What’s the soil like… rock, clay, sand, wet, dry, snow or ice?
- Do you want to put a shelter in at the time of building a house or during a renovation?
- Do you have a garage? If so, does it have a concrete floor?
- Do you have a yard? If so, can heavy equipment get in and out?
Once you’ve answered these questions you can pretty much narrow down what type of shelter you’ll be shopping for.
Checklist for finding a shelter
- I like to see manufacturers, dealers and installers members of The NSSA (National Storm Shelter Association). This association promotes the production, manufacturing and installation of high quality storm shelters, meeting Association’s Performance Standards and requirements of federal, state and local regulations, and the requirements of their governing standards and codes.
- I personally recommend buying directly from these reputable NSSA dealers and manufacturers. Members who know the business, adhere to their strict guidelines and pay close attention to trend and code changes.
- I would avoid dealers who are selling through 3rd party sales. They pay someone else to market their products. This means you’re buying from someone that is not only unqualified to sell storm shelters, but is more interested in meeting their financial needs by volume sales, rather than meeting your personal and safety needs!
- Make sure the shelter is FEMA compliant. Simply ask for the stamped, engineered and current paperwork.
- Make sure the company is licensed and has liability insurance. If the shelter installers have an accident on your property, you’re liable.
When pricing a shelter, try to remember you’re not just paying for a shelter, you’re paying for the complete installation.
- I’m often told buy buyers they are price shopping. This is good and understandable in our present economic climate, but I also advise you to go look at what you’re buying. It’s very easy to be deceived by internet pictures. An example of this might be a shelter that you pay less for, but it has a low ceiling, extremely steep steps or poor ventilation. A shelter is a lifelong investment with the purpose of saving lives. I find that it’s very important to feel confident it’s safe and comfortable.
- What kind of installation will you be getting?
- Will they clean up the excavation site and respect your personal property?
- Will they pack and groom?
- Will the shelter be level and anchored properly?
- Will the installers take the time to show you the proper care and use of the shelter?
- Will they be there for you if you have any future questions or problems?
- Get references!
- Understand the warranties.
I’ve written a blog on warranties and you can read it here.
The strength of the warranty will depend on the strength of the company manufacturing the shelters. You want to buy your shelter from a company who is willing to stand behind their products above and beyond what the warranty states.
Hope this helps!
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