Incentive Program Available to Promote Storm Shelter use

Using a portion of federal dollars provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Hurricane Rita, Texas has funded a program that will provide a rebate covering half the cost, up to $2,500, of building a residential storm shelter in the Amarillo area, Nacogdoches, Harris County, Fort Bend County, and Kendall County.

Written by Cory Chandler

Homeowners in five Texas communities are eligible for state incentive grants aimed at encouraging installation of residential storm shelters.

Using a portion of federal dollars provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Hurricane Rita, Texas has funded a program that will provide a rebate covering half the cost, up to $2,500, of building a residential storm shelter in the Amarillo area, Nacogdoches, Harris County, Fort Bend County, and Kendall County.

Storm shelters offer life safety from natural hazards such as tornadoes and hurricanes, where they also offer an alternative to costly evacuation.

Shelters must bear the seal of the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) to qualify for the rebate. Ernst Kiesling, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Texas Tech University and Executive Director of NSSA, said this requirement is intended to ensure that the installed shelters meet the stringent standards of these organizations and offer life safety of occupants.

Kiesling said NSSA members now offer a wide range of shelter types so that individual preferences and circumstances can be accommodated.

"Good design, construction, and installation result in shelters that offer a high degree of safety at minimum cost," Kiesling said.

The NSSA seal identifies those shelters and distinguishes them from those whose quality has not been verified. The Member Roster on the web site www.NSSA.cc lists the members qualified to affix the NSSA seal. Jurisdictions determining who is eligible for a grant managing the grant programs are listed on this Web site.

NSSA standards are consistent with criteria laid out by the FEMA 320 booklet titled Taking Shelter from the Storm. This booklet gives specifications, including the construction plans and estimated costs, for building a safe room inside a house. The booklet can be found at http://www.fema.gov/fima/tsfs02.shtm.


Kiesling specializes in debris impact and storm shelter quality. He can speak on the construction and use of residential and community shelters and has more than 30 years of experience in the field documenting storm damage and testing different materials and types of construction.

Texas Tech’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center tests the strength of building materials using a wind cannon that allows simulation of debris hurled by the most intense tornados seen in the United States. Tests have been performed dozens of products for an international slate of manufacturers and organizations including the Portland Cement Association, the Engineered Wood Association and numerous shelter manufacturers.


CONTACT: Ernst Kiesling, professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3476, ext. 335, or ernst.kiesling@ttu.edu.