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.