Concrete vs steel storm shelter

Concrete vs steel storm shelter DEFAULT

Which way do you go...ABOVE or BELOW?

Unfortunately, during the media frenzy surrounding most tornadic events it isn't uncommon for inaccurate, misleading or completely false statements to be made by people who quite frankly should know better, such as..."IF YOU'RE NOT UNDERGROUND, YOU WON'T SURVIVE!", which is totally FALSE! Data proves again and again thatSAFE ROOMS SAVE LIVES, period. Anyone who says differently is speaking from a complete ignorance of the safe room design, testing and verification process, and there are mountains of data to prove it!

Watch this video from NewsOn6 reporting the performance of the shelters in Moore, OK.  

  Why We Have Never Offered Below Ground Safe Rooms  

Sadly, this May 7, 2015 Facebook posting from the OKC Police Department documents the #1 reason we choose not to offer underground shelters in our product line. Maximizing your chances of survival during and after a tornado is our Priority #1.

There are more hazards to consider with tornado survival than just the tornado itself. See the pictures below.

Our sincere sympathies to family and friends of the deceased.

Separating Fact from Fiction

While there are pros and cons to both types of storm shelters, there are a few misconceptions regarding the relative safety of safe rooms versus below ground storm shelters.

At Tornado Alley Armor we address those misconceptions head on, allowing the homeowner to separate fact from fiction and refine his search for the type that makes the most sense for his situation and budget.

Misconception #1: 

Won't a tornado just suck an above ground safe room right off the slab?



Actually, it's not suction that causes the vast majority of tornado damage.  Rather, it is the extreme wind speeds of surface air being drawn to the vortex that provide the energy responsible for most tornado damage to buildings, vehicles and other non-secured structures. If tornado force winds can get under an object, chances are it could go airborne. The actual differential pressure drop, or vacuum if you prefer, is only about 1 psi from normal.

However, with a properly engineered and anchored safe room, the maximum wind force exerted on the outside of a safe room is only a fraction of the hold-down and shear resistance rating of the anchoring system we use. The safe room will remain securely anchored to your slab. 

Some may say "I've seen roads ripped up"! Yes, but those are blacktop roads where the extreme winds have eroded soil away from the edge. Blacktop is typically thinner and has far less strength than concrete; plus it has no steel reinforcement. Anyway...back on subject...

The real threat then becomes the impact of airborne debris, which poses the greatest threat for injury or death if you're not adequately shielded from it. Read on...

Misconception #2: 

Does an underground storm shelter offer a greater degree of safety than a properly constructed, anchored and NSSA-verified above ground safe room? 

All things considered… NO WAY.

There is no data demonstrating that underground shelters provide any significant safety advantage versus above ground safe rooms manufactured by an NSSA-verified Producer Member.As a matter of fact....many underground shelters pose more potential unintended hazards than they have advantages. This photo demonstrates just some of the hidden hazards found with a typical in-ground garage floor design. →

Click here for another hazard that made the local news....twice.

Outdoor below-ground safe rooms force users to venture out into violent weather conditions...driving rain, high winds, hail, and worst of all flying debris...just to reach the shelter. Then they have to open the door in high wind, negotiate the wet steps in pouring rain, and secure the door. REMEMBER: Most injuries and fatalities occur as a result of being hit by flying debris while trying to reach safety!



Maybe a good idea in theory...but not so much when you think it through.

Here are just a few recent images taken after heavy rains, flooding and fires that often accompany severe weather outbreaks and tornadoesFlood1Flood2Flood3FLOOD4.1Float2.1

Do not let this prevent you from using your underground shelter if you already have one!

Just be aware of the documented potential hazards and have a rapid, fool-proof, and fail safe escape plan ready!

Do you want to be impressed with the durability and safety of our above ground safe rooms? Watch our entire 9-impact test video on our YouTube page condensed to 30 seconds here or by clicking the image below.


Consider the following:

  • Less than half of the shelter designs on the market today have been built to meet or exceed FEMA 320 standard for safe room construction, or have been impact tested at the Texas Tech Wind Science and Engineering Research Center in Lubbock, TX. However, many claim to be "certified" with no repurcussions since the industry isn't regulated by law.
  • Above ground safe rooms are subjected to the same test protocols as their underground counterparts, and in fact the number of test impacts on above ground shelters exceeds those of underground models. This is because underground shelters typically have only their doors tested, while above ground units endure additional testing of the walls and corner joints.
  • With that being said, whether it's above ground or underground, a certified shelter, verified by NSSA as built to withstand EF5 missile impacts will provide its occupants with "near absolute protection (FEMA-320 language). Those that haven't been independently verified may not. The testing and verification protocols in place establish the ones that will. Manufacturers that haven't been tested, don't perform well, fail impact testing, or make excuses why they aren’t NSSA members should be questioned, and they don't survive long in the marketplace.
  • IT COMES DOWN TO NSSA VERIFICATION AND FEATURES. Do your homework. You'll agree our safe rooms offer so many advantages over any other safe room on the market, we make the decision easy!

Misconception #3:

Should an underground storm shelter be the first severe weather option considered for every situation? 


It's YOUR investment...don't bury it in the ground just to give it away when you move.

You can't take a hole in the ground with you!



With the safety and anchorage misconceptions clarified, there are many other aspects to consider when selecting a severe weather shelter, with safety being just one aspect. Every application is unique and requires consideration of several factors such as:

  • Lifetime Ownership: Can you take it with you if you move? Can you sell it if you choose? Can you give it to your children?
  • Space: Is there adequate space available indoors, in your garage, or in your yard? Can the shape of the safe room be altered to accommodate the available space?
  • Access to the installation area: Will the equipment needed to perform the installation be able to access the space? Will the size of the prefabricated safe room or shelter preclude it from placement in certain areas?
  • Proximity to the living space: How far is it from your living area? Do it require having to venture outside through airborne and potentially deadly debris to reach it?
  • Accessibility: Who is going to be using the shelter? Are there children, elderly or mobility-challenged? Are there stairs to navigate?
  • Comfort: Do you feel like you’re in a coffin? Can you stand and sit comfortably, or are you curled up in a ball with your knees in your chest? Is there adequate room available for emergency supplies? Could you spend hours inside if forced to do so?
  • Emergency egress: What if the shelter door gets blocked or buried with debris? Is there an alternate egress option? Is there more than one way out? Could the door become submerged due to heavy rains or ruptured water lines?
  • Long term use: Is the shelter prone to leaking, infestation or corrosion? Will it be left behind if you move to a new home? How difficult or expensive would it be to take it with you?
  • Alternate uses: Does the shelter have the flexibility to serve other purposes concurrently, such as a home invasion panic room or a property vault?

…and last, but not least of your considerations….

  • Affordability: Has the shelter been over-engineered? Has excessive design and materials selection driven the price unnecessarily high? Is the advertising based on fear or common sense? Are you getting a smart, adequate, approved design, or simply engineering overkill and aggressive marketing to convince you it's worth the extra cost?

Put Tornado Alley Armor to the test. Ask all the questions and see how we stack up against the other guys. You'll like what you find. 

The easy choice is Tornado Alley Armor Safe Rooms. 
We blow the competition away!



Protecting your family in the face of natural disasters is an inevitable consideration for anyone living in a tropical climate.

Storm shelters provide a safe place for your loved ones, offering protection from high winds, the heavy impact from debris, and even tornadoes. Choosing the best option for your home and family, however, can be a daunting task.

Shelters come in two main material types: concrete and steel. Knowing the differences between concrete vs steel storm shelter will help you find the best solution for your needs.

3 Things to Consider When Choosing Between a Concrete vs Steel Storm Shelter

The construction material of your shelter has a greater impact on your decision than you might think. Ask yourself these questions before you buy a storm hideout to make sure you’re getting the best protection for your family. 

1. Simple Construction or Cheaper Materials?

Concrete is a cheaper option for your storm shelter… until you want to make it secure against actual storms. The brittle nature of concrete means it can easily crack and crumble. Without proper reinforcement, it won’t protect against flying debris, either.

The cheap materials in a concrete bunker also introduce the risk of moisture and weak points. Moisture in concrete cracks will degrade the quality of the structure over time. 

The alternative to cheaper materials is to invest in simple steel construction shelters. The rigid sheet metal walls and bolts protect against water ingress. This means there’s no opportunity for moisture to degrade the integrity of the structure.

2. Above ground or Underground?

The location of your shelter may influence the choice of your construction materials.

A concrete bunker underground is what most people still think of when asked to imagine a tornado shelter. This is because houses used to be frequently built with concrete basements as standard, especially in areas with a high storm risk.

However, fewer houses have basements doubling as shelters these days. There is now high awareness of the safety risks of in-ground concrete bunkers. For example, seven children died when their school shelter collapsed in the Oklahoma tornado of May 2013.

Above ground shelters offer easier access for rescue and escape, and reduce the risk of collapse or flooding. They’re easier to find in the case of a rescue, and steel shelters can withstand significant impacts from flying debris without damage.

3. Indoor or Outdoor?

A concrete storm shelter is traditionally based outside. The depth – and therefore, the weight – of concrete required for storm protection makes it an impractical material to house indoors.

Modular steel hurricane shelters can be built indoors and outdoors with ease. All they need is an approved concrete slab for anchorage. This means you can place a shelter in your garage or anywhere on your ground floor – inside or outside – that’s easy for everyone in your family to access in an emergency.

Find a Steel Storm Shelter for Your Family

In the argument of concrete vs steel storm shelter options, it’s easy to see how metal tornado shelters will always win out.

The modular element makes them highly versatile, including the provision of multiple emergency exits. The fact you can place them almost anywhere makes a restrictive concrete shelter far less appealing. Finally, structural integrity is greater against flying debris and high winds than a concrete shelter.

Find a storm shelter for your family today: browse our range of exceptional steel shelters online and book a consultation with our experts to find the best tornado protection for your loved ones.

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3 Tips for Choosing Between A Concrete and A Steel Safe Room

If you’re living in Oklahoma City, Texas, you need to be prepared for tornadoes and storms. The best way to protect yourself and your family from these natural disasters is by having a storm shelter installed in your home.

Storm shelters offer greater protection from tornadoes and are a safe place for you and your loved ones to take refuge from high winds and flying debris during a storm.

However, it can be difficult to decide which type of storm shelter will be the best choice for your safety. Storm shelters are commonly made of either concrete or steel. Choosing between a concrete and a steel safe room can be challenging, so here are some tips to help you decide.

Cost of a safe room

While you want to provide the maximum protection for yourself and your family if a tornado strikes, you also need to consider the cost of installing a safe room.

Safe rooms made of concrete are cheaper than those made from steel. However, concrete is very brittle and can easily crack or crumble, so you might need to spend extra money to properly reinforce the safe room and ensure it protects you during a storm.

You need to consider that cracks in concrete walls will allow moisture inside, which might decrease the quality of the safe room overtime.

Steel safe rooms might be initially more expensive, but the rigid metal walls made of steel provide maximum protection. The steel safe rooms are typically more resistant to moisture. Hence, they last for a more extended period.

Above ground or underground

An important decision to make when installing a safe room on your property is the location. If you want to install a storm shelter underground, you’ll likely be better off choosing a concrete bunker.

Areas such as Oklahoma and Norman, which have an increased risk of storms and tornadoes, often contain concrete basements in houses. Installing a concrete bunker in the basement is a more reasonable choice.

If you’re looking for easy access to the safe room, you should choose above-ground shelters. They minimize the risk of flooding and are easier to quickly enter and exit in an emergency. Above-ground shelters are commonly built from steel and can withstand significant damage during a tornado.

A steel safe room for a house in Oklahoma

Outdoors or indoors

Concrete storm shelters are commonly installed outdoors, such as in the backyard. These safe rooms have greater depth and are heavier. Therefore, they cannot be installed inside the house.

Steel safe rooms are now modular and can be installed both indoors and outdoors. You can install a steel safe room inside your garage or on the ground floor of your property as long as you have an approved concrete slab to provide anchorage.

To protect your family from tornadoes or storms, contact Oklahoma Shelters. We install both concrete storm shelters and steel safe rooms in houses in Oklahoma.

We also have options for garage shelters and underground bunkers. Our storm shelters meet FEMA standards and can withstand an EF5 tornado. Call us at 405-367-7901 and ensure you and your family have a safe place to take shelter during a storm.

Concrete block DIY Storm Shelter 12x20 foot

Above Ground Storm Tornado Shelters

Custom garage tornado shelter

Custom Residential Tornado Shelters

We offer concrete and steel storm and tornado residential tornado shelters in various sizes and can custom build group shelters to accommodate any number of people. Our above ground concrete residential shelter allows you to walk in from ground level. There is no pad or additional anchoring required—just flat, level ground. This shelter is made with concrete and built to FEMA 320 specifications, which is the standard for the building of residential shelters. The steel door has been tested at Texas Tech Wind Science and Debris Impact Testing Center and is rated for 250 mph winds or EF5 tornado.

Concrete Tornado Shelters

concrete tornado storm shelters

This residential tornado shelter is made with concrete and built to ICC 500 specifications. The steel out-swing door has 3 locking bolts (all keyed together) with 3 grease-able hinges and has been painted with a metal primer. The door has been tested at Texas Tech Wind Science and Debris Impact Testing Center and is rated for 250 mph winds or EF5 tornado, meeting FEMA criteria. This shelter is constructed from concrete that tests at 6,000 PSI and has reinforced steel bar and fiber mesh for additional strength with 4” walls.  Our concrete shelter can be attached to your existing pad/patio or a pad can be provided and installed with your shelter. Pictured below are our 4’8″X8’8″, 6’8″X6’8″ and Decorative (available in 6’8″X6’8″only) models (all sizes listed are approximate exterior measurements).  All shelters have 2 top-mounted vents.

Contact us for a free storm shelter quote.

Custom Garage Tornado Shelters

Our steel garage tornado shelter can be custom made in various sizes. Tell us how many people you need to protect or give us the measurements and we’ll build it for you! This shelter is bolted and anchored to the existing concrete in your garage. Our garage shelter has been tested and passed at Texas Tech Wind Science and Debris Impact Testing Center, the same center that does FEMA testing. Each shelter bears a certificate with a serial number from the National Storm Shelter Association stating that the design, construction and installation meet the FEMA P-361, April 2021 Fourth Edition and NSSA ICC 500-2020, which are the highest standards for building tornado shelters. It is structurally built to bear wind loads in excess of 250 mph or an EF5 tornado.

Above Ground, Handicap Accessible Tornado Storm Shelter

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Storm concrete shelter steel vs


The units pictured below are common storm shelters available in every size (ranging from 4×8 to 10×50). Our standard residential tornado shelter includes staircases, bench seating and ventilation. As you can see from the photos below, with our steel shelters, there is also no unsightly 3 foot hill in your yard! 






  • Adding Handicap Accessible Staircases and Ramps
  • Adding Storage Shelves or Safes
  • Adding Backup Generators
  • Adding Bunk Beds
  • Adding Water / Sinks / Plumbing
  • Adding A Restroom/Toilet (composting or traditional)
  • Adding Weather/Emergency Radio
  • Adding Remote Locking / Security
  • Adding Secondary Exits
  • Adding Emergency Phones






How this house survived Hurricane Michael

Steel or Concrete – What’s Your Choice for a Storm Shelter Construction?

1. The Price of a Storm Shelter

You must factor in the material cost, as well as the total expenditures of installation and repair. Concrete storm shelters are less expensive than steel shelters, however concrete is brittle and susceptible to cracking. It allows humidity to accumulate within, making it dangerous in the event of flooding or heavy rain.

Steel safe rooms feature strong walls and are moisture resistant, but they are expensive to build. Their lengthy life expectancy can save you money in the long term.

2. Is it better to build a shelter above or below ground?

If you want to construct an underground bunker, concrete is a more cost-effective option. However, if you wish for an above-ground shelter that is conveniently accessible at all times and can survive damage during a powerful storm, steel is a preferable alternative.

3. Is it better to build a storm shelter outside or inside?

Concrete is commonly utilized in outdoor tornado proof house since it is commonly constructed in the backyard. Because they're heavier, you can add greater depth, which is why it wouldn't be appropriate for indoor construction.

Steel shelters can be erected both indoors and outdoors because they don't take up a lot of room or need a lot of effort.

You can call us at Shire Shores to have steel or concrete storm shelters built in OKC, our squad can help you choose the best site. Our shelters all satisfy ICC-500 and FEMA 320 requirements, and you may personalize yours to suit your needs.


You will also like:

Truth About Concrete: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth

Concrete: Truth about The Good—There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating structures with good, solid concrete, especially when it is mixed and poured correctly.  There are many uses for concrete, and some favorites include the making of swimming pools.  Everyone loves a refreshing swimming pool, right?  And as far as buildings go, concrete does serve its purpose.  Structures like bridges and homes and skyscrapers tend to last for many years without fault, especially with proper maintenance.  And as far as roadways are concerned, our cars prefer concrete to dirt or gravel any day.Concrete: Truth about The Bad—There are some issues with concrete structures that can occur, and for the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on storm shelter structures.  Concrete has a bad habit of sweating– especially underground storm shelters made out of concrete. With extra moisture underground, one might find themselves with a mold issue, which is extremely unhealthy. Another major concern is the fact that concrete storm shelters can crack under pressure.  Once the crumbling begins, who knows if it will ever stop.  Should one decide to build a concrete storm shelter above ground, then one would have to consider that it is really not much different than the homes and buildings that can be destroyed by tornadoes.  The safest and most reliable storm shelter is one made of American made steel, just like the ones constructed and designed by Survive-a-Storm Shelters.  Since many people believe that going below ground is much safer than trying to weather the storm above ground, then one would have to agree that a steel storm shelter would be much safer and structurally sound.Concrete: And The Ugly Truth—is that even though we as a society tend to place a lot of faith in concrete for our above ground needs like buildings, roads, homes, schools, etc., trying to protect our families and loved ones with a cheaply made precast concrete shelter is asking for future trouble, such as a shelter being full of water or covered in mold when you need it the most.For details on what Survive-a-Storm Shelters has to offer, no matter how big or small your group is, call us at 1-888-360-1492 to speak with a knowledgeable storm shelter expert.

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