Tips for choosing the right installer for your storm shelter in NWA

With tornado season just around the corner in Northwest Arkansas, we decided to put some tips together to help you decide how to choose not only the right shelter but also the right installer that fits both your budget and your family’s needs!

1)  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? What’s the soil like (wet or dry; rock, clay, sand, snow, or ice)? Are you in a flood zone?
  • 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 narrow down the type of shelter you’ll be shopping for.

2) Checklist for Finding a Shelter

  • We prefer that manufacturers, dealers, and installers be members of the NSSA (National Storm Shelter Association). This association promotes the production, manufacturing, and installation of high-quality storm shelters and meets federal, state, and local regulation requirements as well as governing standards and code mandates.
  • We recommend buying directly from NSSA dealers and manufacturers who know the business, adhere to their strict guidelines, and pay close attention to trend and code changes.
  • We advise avoiding dealers who are selling through third parties. They pay someone else to market their products. This means you’re buying from someone who is not only unqualified to sell storm shelters but is also 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.

3) When pricing a shelter, try to remember you’re not just paying for a shelter; you’re paying for the complete installation.

  • We’re often told by customers that they are price shopping. This is good and understandable in our present economic climate, but we advise you to consider what you’re buying. It’s very easy to be deceived by internet pictures. An example of this is a less expensive shelter that has a low ceiling, extremely steep steps, or poor ventilation. Because a shelter is a lifelong investment that saves lives, it’s very important to feel confident that your shelter will be 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.

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 that is willing to stand behind its products above and beyond what the warranty states.

Shelter Etiquette: How to be a good shelter host or guest

Arkansans are known for being gracious hosts and good neighbors. Often this neighborliness extends to offering space in a backyard or garage storm shelter. Whether you’re allowing others into your home or accepting a neighbor’s hospitality, you should be careful. Opening up your shelter—or relying on someone else’s—can be tricky in several ways. Read on to learn how to be a good storm shelter host and a good guest in another person’s shelter.


If you own a storm shelter and know a friend or neighbor who doesn’t, it’s only natural to offer them space in your shelter. However, this is not a gesture to be made lightly. Arkansas storms are deadly serious, so your offer could literally be a matter of life and death.


The first thing to remember about offering space in your storm shelter is that people will take you up on it. If you tell someone to come to your house during a storm, don’t be surprised if they show up during a tornado watch. Making this offer is very gracious, but it also entails responsibility.


If you offer space in your shelter to others, make sure your shelter can actually handle the extra load. For instance, if you know the neighbors across the street have a large family and a couple of big dogs, don’t offer to let them into your 4×6 safe room. An overcrowded shelter can be a danger in and of itself.


Inviting guests into your storm shelter requires a certain amount of planning. Don’t expect your friends or family to know your storm plans without discussing them. You should at least go over

  • the amount of available space for your guests’ personal belongings
  • your pet policy
  • your guests’ arrival time before the storm
  • your plan for entering the shelter in the event of an imminent storm

The last thing you want is any sort of panic or conflict to occur between you and your guests. Planning ahead and setting clear rules can help ease any possible conflict before it starts.


Finally, if you do invite guests into your home or your shelter, it’s important to stay aware of the weather any time there is a possibility of a storm. This is good advice for everyone in Arkansas, but it’s especially important if you have other people relying on you.


Of course, not all of us will be hosting other people in our homes during a storm. In fact, many might end up seeking shelter rather than giving it. If you’re one of the many Arkansans who rely on a friend or family member for a storm shelter, you should know how to be a good shelter guest as well.


If you know your friend or neighbor has a shelter, never assume you’re welcome to use it. Always ask first and make plans long before storm season. Showing up at someone’s house during a storm isn’t just rude. It’s potentially life-threatening.


When storms are brewing, it’s always a good idea to double check if you can use someone else’s shelter. This is true even if they invited you in the past. You can never be certain that their plan or their ability to host you hasn’t changed. For example, the neighbor who invited you to his shelter might be on vacation. They could also have family visiting who take priority over you. Always be sure to double check before arriving at someone else’s home.


When someone offers you space in their shelter, don’t assume that invitation covers anyone beyond you and your immediate family. Unless the shelter’s owner specifies otherwise, the invitation does not include your house guests, visitors from out of town, or nearby family members. Showing up with extra people (or pets) is not just rude. It’s dangerous.


The main limiting factor to storm shelter safety is space. Not only is it more difficult to enter a shelter that is packed with people, pets, and things, but it is also more uncomfortable due to the decrease in air circulation. This is why you should always pack light when visiting someone else’s storm shelter. Either don’t bring anything at all or only bring a small bag you can easily hold on your lap or under your feet. A backpack or large purse is fine, but a rolling luggage bag is not.


In some cases, your neighbors won’t be able to take you into their shelter. If this happens to you, you shouldn’t be left in a lurch. Always have a backup plan you can follow if your main plan falls through. Even if it means sheltering in your own home, you should always know what else you can do to keep yourself safe.

Consider Buying a Shelter of Your Own

Let’s face it—relying on someone else to keep you and your family safe is never ideal. It’s best to have your own safe space to retreat to in the event of a severe storm. Storm shelters come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit any need, budget, and space. They also have many financing options from banks and credit unions. That means you won’t have any trouble keeping your finances safe either.
To learn more, contact us today at BBB Storm Shelters. We’re the top storm shelter builder in Arkansas, and we offer our customers the most important thing of all: peace of mind.