photo of a storm shelter window

Storm Shelter Window Suppliers Have Changed the Look of Tornado and Hurricane Safe Rooms

Storm shelter window suppliers can offer the protection required for tornado and hurricane shelters while providing the versatility that natural light allows for during the design process. 

Insulgard’s storm shelter windows and doors are available for tornado and hurricane shelters which are being built to meet the requirements of FEMA P-361 2015 and ICC500-14, whether part of a school, emergency operation center, or a community shelter. They are also being used in police and fire stations as well as some hospitals.  

Use Cases for Storm Shelter Window Suppliers

With the introduction of windows and full vision doors, storm shelters today look much different than shelters that were built just 5 or 10 years ago. In the past, shelters in schools, for example, were more along the lines of concrete bunkers that did not have windows.  In many cases these shelters were even built underground. 

Today, by utilizing these windows and doors, schools are opting for more modern designs, allowing them to be used for multiple purposes. Designers and architects are still required to account for the same high winds and flying debris, but with the addition of natural light they are able to design more modern shelters that can be incorporated into the rest of the building and enhance the overall appearance.  No longer must safe rooms be delegated as just windowless bunkers doubling as storage or wrestling rooms.

With the natural light these windows afford, storm shelters can now double as class rooms, gymnasiums, band rooms or even cafeterias.  However, when designing these rooms, it is very important to work with storm shelter window suppliers in the very early stages of the project.  It is important to be sure the windows you have included in the project meet the strict requirements of ICC500-14 for use in tornado shelters and are certified as such. 

This certification, by an independent lab, requires testing of smallest and largest sizes of each window configuration, both pressure and debris impact testing for tornado shelters and the addition of cyclic testing for use in hurricane shelters and labeling of the product by the certification body which includes quarterly unannounced visits for quality control. 

Also, as a part of the certification, storm shelter window suppliers will need to provide anchorage requirements for the wall substrate being used that will meet what was tested.  Many times these anchorage requirements can dictate the wall thickness, compressive strength or even insulation being held back around the opening.  All of these questions need to be raised to the storm shelter window supplier early on in the design. 

With all of these possible locations for the storm shelter in the building, deciding where to construct it will most likely depend on the size of shelter needed.  The International Building Code (2015) requires the shelter be large enough to accomodate all occupants of the building.  As a result, if the building is a small elementary school then maybe 1 or 2 kindergarten classrooms will suffice.  If it is a large high school then perhaps a whole wing of the building will be required or even a gymnasium or cafeteria.  Either way, this is now possible with the development, testing and certification of storm shelter windows and full vision doors.

Tornado Shelter Windows vs. Shutters

Before storm shelter windows were available, the only way to have windows in a shelter was to install steel doors that were tested for use in storm shelters on the inside of the building which could be shut and locked acting as shutters to protect the window opening.  Although these shutters are still used today, the new storm shelter windows that meet the impact protective system requirements and eliminate the need for shutters have some distinct advantages.  For one, there is no need to “shut” anything in the event of a tornado.  Typically there is a 5-10 minute window between the warning and arrival of the tornado.  With all of the panic during that time and all that needs to be done to get occupants in the storm shelter, the last thing a teacher needs to worry about is making sure the shutters are closed and locked.  Maintenance is another issue with shutters.  For doors that will maybe be used once or twice a year it is absolutely critical the doors and their hardware are in good working order.  With windows there is no maintenance required and the windows are always secure.  Even when there is no one in the building when the storm hits.  

Meeting FEMA 361 Requirements

A safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria and provide near-absolute protection in extreme wind events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. As defined by FEMA, near-absolute protection means that the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.

Architects and other building construction professionals who must obtain windows that meet the comprehensive FEMA P-361 requirements can rely on Insulgard for high-quality, reliable solutions.

As the leading storm shelter window supplier, we are frequently called upon as partners in the development of shelters in public safety complexes, emergency operation centers, 911 centers and school buildings and it something we take very seriously.  It is imperative these shelters and the components used in them withstand the storms they were designed for and provide the protection the children, teachers, community members, critical care workers and emergency personnel depend on.  This is why we have conducted the most extensive testing on our products and carry certifications through Underwriters Laboratories.  

Based in Brighton, Michigan, Insulgard provides architectural security systems built to resist wind and impact threats. Our expertise provides added value during the project from conception to finalization.  With our years of experience in the industry we can provide solutions for architects and building construction professionals throughout the nation.

Contact us to learn more about our storm shelter windows, for a quote, or to inquire about any of our other services.

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