June 6, 2011
After a deadly tornado struck near her Murfreesboro home in 2009, 11-year-old Emily Golden became terrified of severe weather. Once, she even gathered bicycle helmets and a flowerpot to shield her family’s heads during a storm.
Ernst Kiesling, executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association and a professor of engineering at Texas Tech University, said the construction of professionally engineered and tested storm shelters was first proposed in an academic publication in 1974 but didn’t enter public consciousness for decades.
In 1997, after a tornado hit the small town of Jarrell, Texas, news reports began to focus on Kiesling’s research on storm shelters at Texas Tech, bringing attention to professionally constructed shelters, especially the aboveground type, which he said resembles a “torpedo about to take off.”
In the wake of heightened attention, the Federal Emergency Management Agency developed guidelines for constructing effective storm shelters in 1998. However, Kiesling said, there was no agency to verify that a growing crop of storm shelter producers was meeting those standards.
The National Storm Shelter Association was formed in 2000 to fill that role. The organization also has worked with the International Code Council to develop standards, based on research done at Texas Tech, that complement FEMA regulations."