The National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University is researching a shelter door that failed during an Arkansas tornado and is urging the public to check their shelters for proper safety.
On April 27 an EF-4 tornado moved through Mayflower and Vilonia, Arkansas killing one person inside an above-ground shelter.
Researchers found that the door was well-built, but it wasn't suited for storm shelter protection.
Assistant Professor Larry Tanner with the National Wind Institute says there are various types of shelter doors, so it is important to make sure you have the right one.
“Storm shelter doors are specifically built to withstand very high wind pressures and also debris impacts,” Tanner said. “This particular door folded right in the middle with a piece of debris and failed two of the locks.”
Door hardware is one of the things researchers urge homeowners to check on their existing doors.
“Obviously it needs to be a steel door,” Tanner said. “It does need to have three dead bolts on it, and those need to be what we call a commercial grade one. The Mayflower door had residential grade hardware that was very lightweight. If the door feels light and doesn't fell very heavy, maybe you have residential grade hardware on it. Chances are it is not going to be safe.”
In the next phase of their testing in September, they hope to discover ways to salvage doors that have already been installed.
“We are going to develop methods to mitigate those doors on site, so the homeowner can put these mitigations in. Maybe they are crossbars. We don't know yet.”
For more information about proper storm shelters visit http://www.depts.ttu.edu/nwi/research/shelters.php.
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