Safe Rooms and Tornado Shelters: Assessing the Safety of These "Safe" Spaces

By Kevin Steiner.

Published by The International Journal of Design in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The exterior and interior design of spaces designated as "safe rooms," "storm shelters," and "tornado shelters" are inextricably linked to the protection of the occupants. However, the design of such spaces does not always meet safety standards suggested or established by prevailing agencies. While this is often just the concern of an individual homeowner in storm prone areas, it becomes a much larger issue when viewed in the context of an educational institution. This study examines the current design and space plans of several primary storm shelters located on a large mid-western university campus in the heart of “Tornado Alley.” In this study, the existing spaces were evaluated in comparison to standards established by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The buildings and shelters included in the study were chosen based on construction dates, shelter occupant loads, type of building, and access to buildings. This paper will discuss the development of an assessment tool, which may be used to quickly and accurately evaluate spaces for potentially hazardous elements and obstacles affecting accessibility requirements.

Keywords: Interior Design, Shelter, Safety, Safety Standards, Occupants, Educational Institution, Assessment Tool, Evaluation

The International Journal of Design in Society, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.51-57. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 625.979KB).

Kevin Steiner

Assistant Professor, Department of Design, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK, USA

Kevin Steiner is an Assistant Professor of Interior Design in the Department of Design at the University of Central Oklahoma. He holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Design, Housing and Merchandising with a concentration in Apparel Design and Production and Bachelors of Fine Arts in Interior Design. Kevin also holds a Masters of Fine Art in Design with an emphasis in Interior Design. His research focuses on safety as it applies to Interior Design and design pedagogy specifically focusing on software teaching methods. His teaching expertise includes design foundational courses, computer and hand drafting techniques, and guides graduate level research centering around computer drafting and interior design safety.