14 News Special Report: Storm Shelters

Knowing what to do in the event of a tornado can save your life. More and more tri-staters are spending thousands of dollars to better protect their families.

Along with a weather radio, there's something else you need when storms threaten: a safe place to go.

Safe rooms weigh over a ton and can be securely anchored to withstand a tornado with winds well over 200 miles per hour. It has also become the hottest ticket for Integrity Storm Shelters. In fact, they can't keep them in stock.

For more than six years, Newburgh resident Quinten Wilkerson says his house has been missing something: a safe place to go when storms threaten.

"We went to the bathroom or an inside closet or the bedroom," said Wilkerson.

The deadly November 6, 2005 tornado destroyed neighborhoods just a few miles from the Wilkerson's Newburgh home, and ever since, Wilkerson has wanted a storm shelter. Peace of mind finally came two months ago when he had an underground shelter installed in his garage. His family has already used it twice.

"This one works better for our family because we can access it from inside the house. We didn't want to go outside the house during a storm," said Wilkerson.

When a storm threatens, the safest place to be during a storm is below ground. Unfortunately, many new homes, in fact, are not constructed with basements of storms shelters, so it's up to you to know the safest place to go in your home when a storm threatens.

A growing number of tri-staters are building either above or below ground storms shelters. Integrity Storm Shelters has been installing underground shelters for seven years. After last year's record number of tornadoes, business spiked 50%, and another 20% after this year's Leap Day and March 2nd storms. On this day, crews were busy installing two shelters in Hopkins County. Emergency Management Officials say the trend is encouraging.

"If you can afford to do that and have the property to do it on, I think it's a good idea," said Sherman Greer, who is Director of the Vanderburgh County EMA.

Greer says anytime there's a tornado outbreak anywhere in the U.S., it gets people thinking about their safety.

"When you have a 130 plus tornadoes within one day or 24 hour period, that is a lot of incentive for people to start preparing for themselves," said Greer.

When looking for a shelter, FEMA recommends you find one that can withstand 3 seconds of 250 mile per hour winds and has a protected ventilation system. Underground shelters should be watertight and have a signal to alert emergency crews of the location. All shelters should also be equipped with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flashlight, drinking water and a weather radio.

Locally based Integrity Shelters focuses on above ground safe rooms and underground shelters built outside, such as in a backyard.

The cost for a storm shelter varies widely, depending on whether it's above or below ground, the materials used and how large the shelter is. A typical shelter will run a few thousand dollars with large or more elaborate structures up from there.

Copyright 2012 WFIE. All rights reserved.