Archive for Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Residents afraid ‘safe rooms’ in homes not as secure as claimed

May 31, 2011


Lawrence resident Hank Cotton is pictured with his storm shelter, which is built into his garage at Lake View Villas in West Lawrence. Cotton and other neighbors are concerned that their storm shelters may not be as safe as they were led to believe.

Lawrence resident Hank Cotton is pictured with his storm shelter, which is built into his garage at Lake View Villas in West Lawrence. Cotton and other neighbors are concerned that their storm shelters may not be as safe as they were led to believe.

Jeff Waltho says he wasn’t just buying a home when he recently bought one unit of a fourplex off Lake Pointe Drive in west Lawrence.

He also was buying peace of mind. The advertisement for the home even said so.

Waltho had never lived in a Kansas house without a basement. The threat of a tornado always had made that seem like a bad idea. So the fact that his new slab home at 2250 Lake Pointe Drive had a “storm shelter/safe room” in its garage was an important selling point.

At least it was until he started watching a television program on The Weather Channel.

“They were talking about safe rooms and how they needed to be rated for certain wind speeds and what they needed to have to really be safe, and then I started having a lot of questions about mine,” Waltho said.

He had enough questions that he started asking his builder, and it got to the point that the builder’s attorney got involved. What he had to say really didn’t please Waltho.

“In other words,” the letter read, “the storm room is a concrete box with a steel door on it, which is all that was ever promised to you.”

That doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the language that was on a real estate flier promoting the fourplex: “Oversized two car garage with concrete Storm Shelter/Safe Room for your peace of mind.”

At this point, Waltho doesn’t have peace of mind, and he doesn’t have the storm shelter that he thought he did.

A matter of standards

Lots of people don’t have the storm shelter they think they do, said Larry Tanner, an engineer and researcher at Texas Tech’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center.

Tanner said the standards to which a storm shelter are built can make a tremendous difference.

“It can be the difference between life and death,” Tanner said. “Over the years, I have seen lots of failed shelters.”

But until recently, there have been no agreed-upon national standards that must be met before a unit can be called a storm shelter or safe room. Most times, if it had concrete walls, a concrete roof and some sort of door that looked sturdier than your average house door, it would be marketed as a storm shelter.

Tanner, though, said that doesn’t make it so. He said that often such storm shelters have a major weakness with their doors.

“Builders will spend thousands of dollars building a concrete room, and then put $100 of locks on a $200 door, and really, I probably could kick that door in,” Tanner said.

But that may be changing. The International Code Council — one of the more heavily used building codes in the country — recently added storm shelter/safe room standards to its codes. When Lawrence updated its version of the ICC regulations recently (but long after 2008, when Waltho’s house was built), the storm shelter standards became the law for any newly built storm shelters in the city.

The standards require the shelters to be built to withstand 250 mph winds and a 15-pound 2-by-4 traveling at 100 mph, among other standards. Those standards will mean specially designed doors rated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will have to be used on new shelters.

The standards don’t require any homes to have storm shelters, but the standards likely will have an impact on how many shelters get built in the future. Barry Walthall, building safety manager for the city, said builders and real estate agents won’t be allowed to market the concrete rooms as storm shelters or safe rooms in the future unless they have been built to the code standards.

“From here on out, if they plan on calling it a storm shelter, we will need to look closely at how they intend to build it,” Walthall said.

A step forward?

The bigger question may be whether they will build it at all. Mike Hultine, an owner of Cornerstone Construction, built Waltho’s storm room. He said complaints by Waltho — and now one of Waltho’s neighbors in the fourplex — have soured him so much that he likely won’t build another one of the rooms.

“I thought I was trying to do something good, and now I’m just getting painted as a bad guy,” Hultine said.

Hultine said he believes there are good reasons to provide some type of storm shelter rooms in Kansas homes that don’t have a basement. But he said there’s a reason builders don’t often construct storm shelters to the standards set out by FEMA and others. He said a FEMA-rated door costs $5,500 from his supplier. Tanner said they can be had for about $2,000, but, regardless, they are significantly more expensive than a standard steel, fire-rated door.

“We really were concerned about storms when we built this,” Hultine said. “But we recognized some real cost problems, and we wanted to offer people a reasonable amount of protection at a reasonable price.”

Whether he succeeded is a matter of debate. The room is unique because it is part of a fourplex development. Each unit of the fourplex has a garage. The four garages back up to each other, two on each side. In the center, where the four garages intersect, Hultine built four concrete walls and a concrete roof. Inside those four walls, however, he did not separate the four individual storm rooms via concrete walls. Instead, he used standard wooden studs and Sheetrock.

Waltho argues — and Tanner agrees — that’s inadequate, especially given that none of the four doors to the units is a FEMA-rated tornado door. That means that if even one of the doors is blown off — or for whatever reason simply didn’t get shut — the occupants in the other three storm rooms would be protected on two sides only by the Sheetrock walls.

Waltho isn’t the only person concerned about the design. His neighbor, Hank Cotton, said he wouldn’t have bought the house if he knew the storm shelter was so flawed.

“They basically said it was a tornado room and we would be safe and would not have any worries,” Cotton said. “Now, I don’t know. I can tell you my confidence has definitely dwindled.”

Waltho said he’s not sure that he would even use it in a serious storm.

“If I have enough time to get in the truck and get my wife and my dogs, we will go somewhere else,” Waltho said.

Hultine doesn’t understand that type of thinking.

“Are you kidding me?” he responded when asked if he would use the room during a storm. “It is an eight-inch concrete box with a steel door. I absolutely would be in there. I would be in there in a heartbeat.”

What’s less clear is whether future owners of a Hultine home will be in such a room. Between the new regulations and the complaints he’s received about these units, which were the first storm rooms he built, he doubts he’ll build another one.

“I’m beside myself now because I think we probably would have been better off not building anything at all,” Hultine said. “That’s sad, when you really stop to think about it.”


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

In 2000, 40 people were killed by tornados in the United States.

That same year, 41,821 people were killed in the United States by automobile accidents.

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Of course, in some years the death toll is higher, and in other years it is lower. But, the statistics indicate that you are 500 to 1,000 times more likely to die in an automobile accident than to be killed by a tornado.

And, between 1995 and 2004, another 489 people lost their lives from being hit by lightening. That's about the same level of risk that you have of being killed by a tornado.

Our lives are always surounded by danger. But, we often don't keep it in perspective.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

It's all so easy for me to say. I've seen a couple tornados, and I've been underneath a couple of them. But, the most terrified I have ever been was in a car.

beatrice 6 years, 6 months ago

This is why I never drive through a tornado.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Bea - you know what was really cool? Once I was driving the tractor in one of our fields and a very large dust devil (mini tornado) was headed my way. So, I stopped the tractor and ran right into its path and stood there.

It was really neat! When it hit me, first the dusty wind was going one way really fast, and then there was that eerie still moment of silence while I was in the eye of it, and the air pressure dropped a bit.

Then, the wind whipped the dust the other way for a moment, then it was over.

SWJayhawk13 6 years, 6 months ago

This season alone, there have been over 500 tornado-related deaths, and the number just keeps rising.

I volunteered in Joplin and saw the devastation that tornado left. The pictures don't do it justice, it looks like a war-zone. Regardless of the odds, people need to take tornadoes (and tornado safety) seriously.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

There's a lot of floods this year also. The weather pattern right now is very unusual.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

But it may be the new "usual" - we'll see.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Actually, either "tornados" or "tornadoes" is an accepted spelling.

appleaday 6 years, 6 months ago

Sounds like the builder just wants to sell something that sounds safe but when it comes down to being accountable and having something that meets a certain set of standards, not so much.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

8 inch concrete walls and roof is not a cosmetic thing that merely sounds safe. It is safe. But the door is the problem. He thought the steel doors would be sufficient for the job. They are not.

Avoid expensive doors by using a stub wall. A 7 foot square concrete room with a 28" opening in the corner. A stub wall of 8" thick concrete protrudes into the room, leaving a 28 opening at one end. Bench seats are tied down interior to the stub wall and people are seated with seat belts on the benches. Eye protection can be provided as well.

They are not sucked out of the room. They are not in line with any opening. Objects would have to pass down a 7 foot long corridor, bounce off the wall and toward the people interior. For a coupla hundred bucks more, a steel folding security door could be placed across the interior opening to help with stuff blowing in.

Nothing is perfect and there are scenarios where this might not be enough. But it sure beats the bathtub.
My advice to the homeowner is to build an interior wall to block the door from a direct path to him and his family. Put in some benches with seat belts and get some goggles. You won't be sucked out and you won't be in a direct path of flying 2X4s. I don't know the dimensions of the room or the location of the door, an interior blast shield and human tie-down is the key at a reasonable price (less that $1000).

Ken Lassman 6 years, 6 months ago

I like it. I'd go with a 32 inch wide hallway/stub wall for wheelchair accessibility for folks who are nonambulatory, tho.

gccs14r 6 years, 6 months ago

That really depends on whether the concrete is steel reinforced or not.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Why does a private residence have to be ADA compliant? Look at it this way.....If the hallway isn't wide enough, buy another property that is. In this case, the 4-plex arrangement could have one 36 inch hallway and three 28 inch hallways. I'm just trying to save money here.

Most government bureaucrats have no thought to saving money. They are in CYA mode at all times and never would accommodate the saving of money because it isn't how the law is written. Does that mean that all new two story houses must have a way of installing elevators? And what about the hidy-holes in basements? Must you have an elevator for those?

Just some thoughts and questions.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 6 months ago

From what I've seen with most wheelchairs is that 28" would be kinda tight for the average adult, at least for my folks. 32" would do it easily for 80-90% of the wheelchairs around these days, even a power chair. Seems like a reasonable compromise and you could make the shelter that much bigger if you needed to without much extra expense.

Personally, I think a basement is worth it.

BigPrune 6 years, 6 months ago

Wow. Some protection is better than no protection. The realtor selling the house should've said it was a "safe room" and left it at that, because most intelligent people know that tornado shelters need to be built in a specific manner in order to be called a tornado shelter. An F5 tornado is going to eat your lunch regardless.

oso 6 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

greenquarter 6 years, 6 months ago

I call b.s. The bottom line is that Hultine was trying to make as much money as he could--perfectly understandable, but own up to it, at least. That he's trying to pass himself off as some sort of hero is laughable, especially with his self-pitying comments about how nobody appreciates his benificence. What do they want him to do, build it up to code or something? Well, YES. I agree that houses with slab foundations need a safe place to go, but better would be to build just one community safe room for a set number of residences that meets these standards, and the families could share on the rare occasions they actually need to use the room. If you're going to do something "good," don't do it half-a**ed. The money spent on these doors would be well worth avoiding this sort of bad publicity.

NoOneSpecial 6 years, 6 months ago

It was built to code and City of Lawrence Inspectors approved the construction.

Nikki May 6 years, 6 months ago

While these shelters might not be perfect, they are more than many of us have. We have our laundry room. All the normal plaster with a normal interior door. I would say in a pinch, it's better than nothing. But, yeah, maybe don't call it a storm shelter any more so if anything does happen, you won't get sued over it.

melott 6 years, 6 months ago

This article says: "...until recently, there have been no agreed-upon national standards that must be met before a unit can be called a storm shelter or safe room." This is incorrect. Detailed standards and building plans have been available from FEMA for at least ten years. See

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 6 months ago

Hi: I'm aware of the FEMA standards, but as the article states, until recently, there have been no agreed-upon standards that MUST be met before a unit can be called a storm shelter or safe room." Until the ICC adopted shelter standards, people in Lawrence and elsewhere could build a room to whatever standard they saw fit and market it as a storm shelter/safe room. Thanks, Chad

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Semantics and officiousness aside, surrounded by 8 inch concrete is better than "an interior closet" or the bathtub regardless of the door. Safety is always an exercise in probabilities anyway. If you start multiplying the probabilities of EF5 times probability of you getting hit by it, times flying debris penetrating your steel door, times the debris hitting you, eventually you get to "eh, good enough".

melott 6 years, 6 months ago

This article says: "...until recently, there have been no agreed-upon national standards that must be met before a unit can be called a storm shelter or safe room." This is incorrect. Detailed standards and building plans have been available from FEMA for at least ten years. See

dwowsers 6 years, 6 months ago

come on. the advertisement says something, and so you are excused from due diligence? i'm all for full disclosure on the seller's part, but the buyer is also responsible.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree that if I were buying a house that advertised such a room, I would check it out thoroughly.

But, if it's being advertised as something it's not, I'd say that's fraud.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 6 months ago

Am I reading this wrong, the builder out of the goodness of his heart built what meets code as a safe room.

Then he gets hammered. I've have built three homes over the years. If I had ordered a safe room and it came with a reasonable door I would have been happy. If I wasn't simply trade the door with the builder, or buy a better one.

Good grief!

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes - you're reading it wrong.

  1. It wasn't out of the "goodness of his heart", it was to sell a house - and he undoubtedly charged the buyer for it, probably marking it up to make a profit as well.

  2. According to the story, there aren't accepted standards/codes for safe rooms.

  3. According to a poster, there are, and this builder didn't use them.

  4. If the door costs $2,000, that's not a trivial extra cost, in my view.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 6 months ago

Jafs and bozo, I admit you changed my mind. If houses were flying off the sales sheets and the market was excellent I may side with the builder, but he built it to help sell the home.

Good idea too. Just need to do it right.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Jafs is right-- if the builder billed it as something that it's not, if it's not quite fraud, it's most certainly unethical.

And wissmo, this so-called safe room didn't meet any sort of code for "safe rooms," and anyone using it is potentially vulnerable should they use it in severe weather. Also, simply swapping out the door would not fix the problem. The door jams and doors, as well as all the interior walls, would have to be considerably upgraded to make these truly "safe rooms."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Actually, it looks like the door jam is steel, set in concrete, so it may be adequate, assuming that it's heavy enough gauge to hold a heavy-duty latching system. My guess is that the door would need to be latched at the top, middle and bottom to be truly "safe" in a tornado. That's a potentially very expensive latching system.

Centerville 6 years, 6 months ago

This story is all chicken-little. No facts, not one reliable example. Just hysteria. I suppose it's too much trouble to do any research, even with Joplin just one state over.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Centerville, I did give facts, and I did spend a bit of time doing research to determine how many people were killed by both tornados and automobible accidents in one single year. I used the year 2000 because that was the only year for which I was able to find the exact number killed by each in a single year.

In 2000, 40 people were killed by tornados in the United States.

That same year, 41,821 people were killed in the United States by automobile accidents.

Those are facts.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Look here Jeff Waltho: It's on sale

Plus more sale items

So for $300 bucks a person, you could just tie yourself down and ride it out with nothing more than a broken bone or two. Otherwise you are covered with concrete walls, a bulletproof jacket and a helmet.

Here's the real message, Jeff. Quit whining and do something. Build a blast wall out of concrete. Wear a helmet. And if a Cat 5 tornado hits you directly...pray because you just got really unlucky. Cat 5 tornadoes are rare. Flying timber which just happens to blow through your door on your concrete shelter are rare. and then if they hit you where you don't have a helmet or bulletproof jacket.....well heck Jeff, it was your time to go, that's all there is to it.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

It is a safe room. It just isn't a safe enough room. If the buyer buys and later sees a TV show that says it isn't safe enough, then yes, he should spend an additional $600 for himself and the little lady.

I am going to assume that Mr. Waltho looked at the safe room before he bought it. If I owned such a house, I wouldn't blame the builder. I would beef up the design with a stub wall used as a blast wall. It would take me a weekend and build a 4 foot wall out of 6 inch thick concrete. Rebar $60, Quickrete: $135 Wood for forms or form rental: $75 Concrete mixer rental: $65 (I go get rentals late Saturday and return it early Monday and get a 1 day rental rate. Complain if they don't rent this way.

I wait until my two boys are home:

Saturday AM get rebar, wood and concrete. Snap dimensions, drill holes for rebar into existing concrete. Put in rebar and tie together. Attach wood along existing concrete for forms. Go get forms and mixer at 5 sat. Put in the forms sat evening. Sunday, three guys mixing, loading and shoveling concrete. Shouldn't take more than 3 hours. Clean up mixer. Pull forms off Sunday evening, wash, then load for the morning. Show up at rental place when they open Monday.

Total cost: about $350 with tax. Another $50 for beer and steaks. And look how much money I saved on athletic club fees.

You can do it, Mr. Waltho. Be a man and don't scrimp on those concrete forms.....busted out forms are no fun at all.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

If you think I talk a lot, you should see me shoveling concrete.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Wow UNIKU, a triple bonus. Lay down the mouse.

bad_dog 6 years, 6 months ago

EF (Enhanced Fujita scale) rather than "Cat" is the correct nomenclature for describing the strength of tornadoes.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

You missed the double entendre..A category 5 on the enhanced fujita scale, or EF5 Cat 5, which is also the type of cable which connects your computer to your cable modem. Ethernet 100 baseT via a cat 5 cable. Oh, none of these scales, Fujita, enhanced fujita, Beaufort, Safir-Simson are really scientific. They're just ways for weather guys to quantify, bad, really bad, horrible, massive, and devastation.

You say category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, but not category 3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale? No wonder my Asian students think English is a waste of time....they're right. Even English weather science isn't consistent linguistically.

bad_dog 6 years, 6 months ago

If this indeed was an attempt at a double entendre, it appears either you or I you missed the logical or humorous connection required for a double entendre to have meaning to others. While the term "Cat 5" obviously has more than one meaning, IMHO a double entendre as expressed should inherently lend itself to more than one meaning or interpretation. In the absence of Cat 5 tornadoes composed of blue cable or their having had a history of somehow ominously arising from the internet (damn you Al Gore), I'm not sure how a reader was supposed to correlate your post about the strength of tornadoes with internet connection cables. Oh well, it won't be the first time hearing something "blew me away".

As for the correct description of tornadoes, I do not believe the word "Cat" is an appropriate or accepted meteorological term. Hurricanes yes, tornadoes, no. I believe it's just described as an EF 1-5 rather than a EF Cat 1-5 .

If an EF5 tornado strikes your/my home, it won't matter how either of us refer to it, nor whether (as opposed to weather...) you have dial-up, broadband or tin cans with string. Hopefully, we'll both still have something to joke about...

kansanbygrace 6 years, 6 months ago

A basement is a very, very good and affordable improvement. Any good quality home built in the midwest will have one. Put the mechanicals there, put the laundry there, put the pingpong table and the hobby shop there. Enclose a corner, equip it just as Devobrun described it above, use it as a pantry and a safe room. It's one of the most cost-effective ways to upgrade your home.

kansanbygrace 6 years, 6 months ago

(I don't mean to say "retrofit" your home with a basement. Although I've done it twice, it's quite a project.)

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

I have friends in the east, they used to live in Tennessee, and now live in Kentucky. I'm not sure if what my friend told me is accurate or not, but in 2001 he told me that yes, you could have a basement built into a new construction home, and it was $14,000 extra.

I think it would be worth it, just think of all the junk that could be stored down there!

But for that matter, why not just a partial basement? That would be a lot cheaper, and it seems that no one has mentioned that yet.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

If I were to hazard a guess, I would think that an underground cellar would be much safer, because very often the debris from a home simply collapses into the basement. That could not happen in the separate cellars that I've seen, but I'm sure that it depends a great deal on the exact design. Most of the ones that I've seen were quite deep in the ground.

Also, it's very likely that it would be very simple to exit a cellar after it was all over, but if you were in a basement, you might have to remove a lot of debris in order to get out.

And there's another risk, and that's fire. Very, very uncommon, but possible. That would not be a risk in a separate cellar.

Friends of mine out in western Kansas where tornados are very common have both a partial basement under the house and a separate underground cellar. When it looked really bad, they always chose the cellar.

In fact, the tornado risk is why they dug out and constructed the cellar in the first place - they certainly didn't need the storage space!

And, from looking at their cellar, it's hard for me to imagine getting hurt by a tornado once you were safely inside it.

boxers_or_briefs 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm just in shock that Cornerstone would even attempt to build a safe room in the first place. That would be less profit for them.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 6 months ago

I think the film of all the horrific storm damage has everybody thinking about safety. The Wismos are certainly chatting about it.

A bit complicated, and have seen many of these concrete rooms on homes being built. Especially around Baldwin. On the other hand always before taking occupancy a potential buyer has to think clearly during a walk through.

At lease in my case, my "RIP" father in law acting as watch dog would have noticed this. On the other hand buying a new home is exciting and leads to making mistakes. My pops in law noticed a gleaming brand new super duper AC system brand name on t.v. commercial type was woefully inadequate. I was bragging about it to my buddies and would have never thought to look. (the builder changed it out, but with a cheaper brand name)

Unfortunately I think Hultine had great intentions, but is liable. Life lesson learned.

Liberty275 6 years, 6 months ago

The moral: don't try to help people, bang them hard retail. Humans aren't worth helping unless they are prepared to fork out top dollar.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

I live on the second floor of an apartment complex, and I have no tornado shelter to go to at all. But I'm not worried, because I grew up around them. I've seen them, been under them, and been sleeping when one passed by two blocks from my home.

And, I've seen a small car that had been run over and completely crushed by a semi truck only about a minute before. That was amazing because after the accident, the car was less than 12 inches tall.

So, tornados somewhat interest me, they're like rattlesnakes were where I grew up. Treat them with respect, don't do anything stupid, and chances are very good that you'll never have a problem.

But when I'm driving I'm watching closely every second, because unlike tornados or rattlesnakes, car accidents don't give you any notice.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Wow Ron, you have strange logic. Because you have seen them and you weren't harmed, you aren't afraid? You live in a place that is completely unprotected from tornadoes and you aren't troubled. I think my bulletproof jacket and motorcycle helmet idea (above) is a good one for you. Keep them handy and when the big one hits.....ride baby, ride.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

You know what really scares the **** out of me?

Riding in a car without a seatbelt on.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

I don't consider it strange logic at all, because while working on an Electrical Engineering degree, I had to study a LOT of statistics.

'Probabilistic Systems Analysis' and 'Random Data: Analysis and Measurement Procedures' were the names of the textbooks for the more advanced classes. I admit, they were very tough courses.

And I've seen so many tornados! They're so very common in western Kansas and I don't know of anyone that was ever hurt by one. They sure did do a lot of damage, though.

The chances of me dying due to a tornado compared with the other risks that I face every day are so small that it hardly shows on my radar screen. But I'm not stupid, I do keep my eyes open.

I'm much more likely to die of a heart attack. And that's a fact.

(That's something else I don't worry about!)

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

By Art Breipohl . He's a friend of mine.

Now stop worrying. Emotions are for wimps.

gphawk89 6 years, 6 months ago

I actually thought Probabilistic Systems Analysis was one of the easier engineering courses...

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Well, you probably actually studied instead of,,, well never mind.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Could be that it was being taught by Art Breipohl, who wrote the book and taught the class. Since he was a very smart guy who was also a regular person, he was a good teacher. It's kinda funny though. I had some statistics classes from the math department too, and they were taught well. I think the real egghead types go into math that has no earthly application, and therefore, they are allowed to dream in the basement of Strong Hall all day. Emerging periodically to squint at the sun and return like Gollum to their hole.

Avoid their classes.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Here's a good statistic:

Number of people killed by guns in the United States in 2004: 29,569

Percentage breakdown by US gun deaths in 2004, by type:

  • 16,750 suicides (56% of all U.S. gun deaths)
  • 11,624 homicides (40%)
  • 649 unintentional shootings, 311 from legal intervention and 235 from undetermined intent (4%).

That averages out to 81 people dying everyday from guns.

So, while considering the purchase of a home with a safe room, you should also be out shopping for a bullet proof vest because in the year 2004, 12,273 people were killed by guns (excluding suicides), versus less than 100 deaths due to tornados in a typical year.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

P.S. Once I did ask a police officer if it is legal for a private citizen to own and use a bullet proof vest. He assured me that it is.

Richard Payton 6 years, 6 months ago

Built better than a mobile home. Next purchase might be a steel home by Kodiak 1-800-278-0888. Even those won't hold up to an EF-5 tornado.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

A Lustron home built of steel is what you need for that, but they don't build them anymore!

a clip: May 2007, Greensburg, Kansas ~ Only Structure Standing "A house in Greensburg, Kansas was hit by an F-5 tornado in May of 2007. All other structures around it for a half mile around were destroyed."

Photographs of a Lustron home that was hit by an EF-5 tornado, and would have been survivable if you had stayed inside it:

bad_dog 6 years, 6 months ago

Wow, Ron! Those photos bring back a lot of memories. I lived in a Lustron home off Main Street in Hays, America. There were 2 or 3 in the neighborhood. I remember the closet and bedroom entry doors were all metal pocket doors. It was built on a slab with linoleum tile floors. It sure was loud inside during a hail storm, but we had a LOT of good times in that house!

bad_dog 6 years, 6 months ago

I just found the one I lived in-109 E. 19th St. Ours was 3 BR, 1 bath.

Apparently there were more than I recalled-at least 9 in Hays. It's interesting to note how several owners have covered up the distinctive walls and roofs with standard building materials.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

I've seen those houses in Hays! I want one! And I haven't heard the term "Hays, America" for a very long time!

But, the one I really want is the one in St. Francis, Kansas. There is only one in town, although there is another on someone's farm out there somewhere.

The one in St. Francis is yellow, and has a very uncommon feature for a Lustron home - it is one of the very, very few that was constructed with a basement.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Another thing about the one in St. Francis - it still has the original zig-zag porch support. For some reason, most owners have removed that feature.

In fact, from looking at the exterior of that one, it is entirely original, meaning that it is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 6 months ago

Absolutely fascinating. My mind imagined some odd geodesic futuristic nonsense, but took a little internet journey to Lustron. I will most certainly include a Lustron photo trip on my next day trip.

Do you know anything about the little rectangular cinder block homes I see around and in Lawrence? They look so sturdy, but cheap to build. Some are kept up well and cute as a bugs ear.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

We just might not get that death certificate, because just maybe "We Will All Go Together When We Go', by Tom Lehrer!

Centerville 6 years, 6 months ago

Ron, to clarify: I wasn't questioning the number of people killled in tornaodoes. I would like to know the number of people in 'safe rooms' killed by tornadoes. Before the LJW gets away with inventing an unfounded fear.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

I see what you're saying now. But, I think that since the definition of a "safe room" is so nebulous and relatively few people are killed by tornados, that statistic would be very difficult to determine.

And, in the case of a devastating tornado that leveled a home, how could you ever know if they were even in the "safe room" in the first place?

I think that the only "safe room" would be something like a partial basement. An EF-5 is simply going to level the place, "safe room" and all (except for homes built of steel, such as the Lustron), so the only place that could actually be safe in that case would be beneath ground level. Fortunately, tornados of that strength are very rare.

SomePeople 6 years, 6 months ago

I have read, read, and read again thread after thread and never has one compelled me to actually sign in and comment until now. I do not even know where to begin, but I will try to start from the beginning.

First and foremost, the builder did absolutely nothing in violation of any code that was in force at the time of construction. As a matter of fact, he was in the small minority of builders who would rather forego a portion of their profits to assist in two things; the sale of his property and keeping future owners safe(r). To ridicule one builder for making a concerted effort at a "safe room/storm shelter" and to let the multitudes of other builders that were simply throwing up stick framed,slab sprawl is completely insane.

People need to step back and realize the larger picture before ripping someone a new one in a public forum. Instead of leading anyone to believe that Mike Hultine actually put a product that is "sub par" in any form on the market, maybe you should first educate yourself as to what the other builders were providing for safety? The safest place in most slab houses that have been built in the past twenty years would most likely be a centered bathroom inside the tub. Unfortunately, construction quality has historically been low enough in this town that the chance of a owning a tub that can stop ANY flying projectile is slim to none.

In response to the owner who is complaining about his "shelter"...Sit in your house instead of using the shelter. The odds should be a ton better for survival according to your ridiculous logic. I have personally seen the construction quality of the units in question and I can assure you that I would much rather be inside one of the storm shelters than in one of the basements in the units built by some company out of KC just to the east (same development).

This entire topic stinks of a slow news day and many, many people who are uneducated about construction in this town. I think someone stated that if an EF-5 is heading your way you might as well not worry about what is surrounding you...They are spot on!

....Some People

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

"First and foremost, the builder did absolutely nothing in violation of any code that was in force at the time of construction."

The city had no code on "safe rooms" at the time. Still don't as far as I know, so you're correct that there was no "violation."

And while the rooms might be well constructed, there are apparently design flaws if they are to be considered "safe rooms." That he billed them as such was the basis for the complaint.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Greensburg was totally leveled by an EF-5, and the death toll for the town was 10 people. The population was about 1,398, so if you had been there, your chances of surviving would actually have been pretty good.

The Greensburg numbers come down to this: For every person that was killed, approximately 140 people survived the event.

However, it may be very different in Lawrence. I am sure you have a point about construction standards in this town, because I was told that some of the builders here have been building housing units that are expected to have a usable life of only 50 years.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

No SomePeople, it is not ignorance of construction. It is an institutionalized predilection toward that which is their own idea. "Yes Bobby, you are correct", says the teacher who was just told that 1+1=14.
They cannot be wrong, because they make the rules. When a tornado comes along, they invent reality again. It is systemic, SomePeople. It is part of our modern society. It exists in denying who commits crimes. It exists in what causes cancer. It exists in science, law, feelings, is called politics. Complain and let the "experts" solve their problems. Above I gave a solution, in detail, of how I would solve the problem. It is really a lifestyle. Solve your own darn problems.

Nope SomePeople, people are looking for their app, their phone number, their help. I wouldn't hire a single person on this board.

It has been this way for years. Useless wimps....complaining that somebody oughta do something. But they have no clue what to do for themselves. And when confronted with the concept of being a person of action......forget it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree. The only expert on everything in the world is Devo. All the others are imposters.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes, and we use Google in our efforts to sound wise.

LivedinLawrence4Life 6 years, 6 months ago

I think Hultine made a good, yet affordable effort to offer something safer than the typical slab home with no concrete walls at all. If other builders are offering a better solution in Lawrence, I have not seen it yet. If I add a storm shelter to my home, I would expect to pay more if I demanded top of the line versus reasonable and affordable. To me, it seems those townhomes are affordable for what you get. Couldn't those homeowners add more concrete and steel if that makes them feel better in a storm?

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Amen brother. The homeowner is a know-nothing. When he sees a report on The Weather Channel, he wonders......? He has had no training in anything remotely like engineering. His Dad was a carpet salesman and he studied history in school. He works for the government shuffling papers......on a computer.

And he relies on "experts".

And other "experts" tell him that the first "experts" are wrong....

Grow a pair, make your own darn decisions based upon experience in the real world. Do something real with your hands.....this Saturday.

Mr. Waltho, you can e-mail me privately and I could come over and give you a hand. I'm serious. It would be a lesson in how to do stuff yourself. It would solve your problem and make you feel good about yourself at the same time. When I work, I don't feel. So don't worry about being taken to task, condemned, or any other guilt trips.....I don't do guilt trips.

Let's get busy. Oh, I have a dinner engagement that will call me away about 4:30.....otherwise put on your work boots.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

There's only one right way to do anything, and that's Devo's Way.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

"When I work, I don't feel"

That may be why you're so gung-ho about acting - it's helping you to repress/suppress your emotions.

Most of us wouldn't call that healthy, of course.

And, not something I'd like to emulate, thanks for the offer.

Kat Christian 6 years, 6 months ago

when I moved to Lawrence,KS I could not believe the amount of houses built without basements being it is in tornado alley. Either the town doesn't really care about its residents or they are just plain stupid. What part of tornado danger do they not get? At least build a storm shelter under ground for each home how big of a space can that take? Even I would NEVER believe in a minute that safe rooms would save you from an F3/4 tornado. No way in H$)). Either KS folks are so complacent or dumb why would you even think a safe room above ground would be safe? The only way to survive an F3 or F4 tornado is underground. These safe rooms are just another way for develpers to con people out of their money and make them think they are safe. Just like in those Habitat for Humanity homes they say they built a safe room/master room closet - bull there is no way those rooms would be safe enough to protect a family from an F3/4 tornado. There needs to be underground safe rooms built - in that a family can assure they will be safe from a tornado. I hate developers they are such liars.

JerryStubbs 6 years, 6 months ago

I have a $100 steel door on my garage, and I'd say it would stand up to most debris like tree limbs etc.

I think some of the natural disasters in the last year have changed a lot of people opinions about what is good enough protection, or maybe sometimes the question is: what kind of protection do we need?

Even if you have a $2000 door, It's probably not a good idea to put your head up to the door to listen to a raging tornado outside.

I wonder if the homeowner had been given a choice between a $200 steel door and a $2000 FEMA approved setup, which would he have picked?

I hope the guy didn't get charged for a $2000 FEMA approved door. If he did, of course he should be compensated. If not, I think he could upgrade.

JerryStubbs 6 years, 6 months ago

I have a basement, and I consider it one of the most valuable parts of my house. I know they cost something, but I think they're worth the expense.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.