a school with a tornado safe room

For areas that tend to be prone to heightened tornado activity (especially throughout the warmer months of the year), it’s often advisable, if not required, for some public buildings to include tornado-safe rooms & tornado-safe room doors in their designs.

All the materials used to enclose these public or community safe rooms must meet rigorous safety testing standards to provide optimal protection to members of the public. In many instances, building designers must include reinforced wall panels, windows, and doors in their designs. 

Tornado-safe room doors in particular must be able to bridge the gap between security and aesthetics. Building designers must prioritize safety when selecting materials and suppliers, but still take the design needs of their clients or stakeholders into account. Here’s a guide to selecting tornado-safe room doors that meet these various requirements. 

What Are Tornado Safe Room Doors?

Tornado-safe rooms can include any structure designed to keep occupants safe from flying debris or other threats during extreme weather events. There are various types of storm shelters, from those designed to shield large numbers of people to residential safe rooms designed for single families.

This guide focuses specifically on community safe rooms, which are generally included in public buildings like police stations, educational facilities, and government buildings. These shelters need to meet a whole host of requirements, covering everything from material selection to sizing. You can find more about these standards and practices in FEMA P-361. However, this guide focuses specifically on doors. 

Community storm shelters or tornado safe rooms generally serve a double purpose in these public buildings. For example, a school gym or cafeteria may double as this type of shelter. In these instances, special doors are required to close off the area if and when severe weather strikes, to keep those inside safe from flying debris and other potential threats. 

This is why tornado-safe room doors are so essential. They basically transform these practical spaces into safe zones when needed. But you cannot select just any materials for this type of project. Especially for public buildings in high wind zones.

Tornado-safe room doors are made of reinforced materials and must be pressure and impact-tested to ensure they are able to provide optimal protection in extreme weather environments. However, these products can also be made in various finishes and aesthetic styles to suit the style needs of different types of facilities. 

What are the Security Components of Tornado Safe Room Doors?

In community tornado-safe rooms, all materials, including doors, must be pressure and impact-tested to make sure they can withstand tornado-like conditions. The relevant testing standards for this type of product include ICC500-20 and FEMA361-21. These are relevant specifically for tornado and hurricane-safe rooms in public buildings located within 250mph wind zones. 

To achieve this certification, door systems of the smallest and largest sizes, including both single doors and pairs, must be tested by recognized entities like Underwriters Laboratory.

Testing includes launching projectiles at the material and exposing it to extreme pressure cycles. Materials must not break apart or spill to pass these tests. Products that meet these standards can then be labeled as such. Products that are not tested and labeled cannot be included in FEMA-certified community safe rooms. 

What Are the Design Features of Tornado Safe Room Doors?

Of course, safety is generally the top concern when choosing tornado-safe room doors or any other materials to be used in the construction of public storm shelters. However, building designers and decision-makers also generally want products that suit the aesthetics of the space and blend in with the rest of the design elements, especially since these safe room structures generally serve other purposes when an extreme weather event is not currently taking place. 

Luckily, tornado-safe room doors are available in a huge array of formats, sizes, styles, and finishes. There are both single and double doors produced in stock and custom sizes. And you can select the finish that most closely resembles the rest of your doors or design elements. Some doors may even include reinforced glass materials to provide visibility and optimize natural light. As long as products are tested and labeled by recognized industry bodies like UL, they can be used to complement your designs. 

Hardware is another important design consideration to make when selecting tornado-safe room doors. While there are a variety of options available within this category, it is important to note that hardware products must also be tested to meet ICC500 and FEMA standards in order to be used in community safe room designs. So select aesthetically pleasing options that your tornado-safe room door provider recommends for the best possible outcomes. 

If you’re looking for tornado-safe room doors to provide added protection alongside other tested and certified materials in your designs, contact Insulgard to discuss your options.

Our STORMDEFEND TTH350 wind and impact-resistant door systems meet the highest industry testing standards, including ICC500-20 and FEMA361-21.

Our entire StormDefend line of products can be used to customize storm shelters in high wind and hurricane zones. Our experienced team can even connect you with various value-added services to simplify the installation process. Visit our website to browse options or connect with a member of our team today. 

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