Residential Tornado Shelter Doors

With the severe tornadoes experienced throughout the Midwest and Southeastern parts of the United States in the last few years, there has been much focus on tornado shelters.  The doors, frames and hardware supplied for public buildings are required to be tested and certified as a tornado shelter opening under the ICC 500 guidelines.  No substitutions are allowed from the tested assembly.

The residential tornado shelter market is different.  The door, frame and hardware are not required to be tested or certified at this time.  The FEMA 320 standard  is prescriptive and is very open for interpretation.  ASSA ABLOY performed a comparison of a hurricane certified opening, a standard steel door and frame opening and a certified tornado opening.  The results were alarming.

The first test was with a hurricane approved assembly with 3 deadbolts.  Per ICC 500 testing a 15 lbs 2×4 traveling at 100 mph hit the door at the center lock area and forced the door wide open immediately.  The next test was with a standard metal door with 3 grade 1 deadlocks.  The 15 lbs 2×4 took the door completely out of the opening and propelled the door  into the shelter.  The last test was with an opening tested to the ICC 500/FEMA 361 tornado standards.  The door sustained 3 impacts with the 15 lbs 2×4 and maintained the integrity of the opening.

A comprehensive video of this testing is available on YouTube.

https://youtu.be/ZyV77oMbvEc


Changes are in the works for the residential shelter openings.  The complete opening for residential and light commercial shelters will soon be required to be tested and certified. An investigation is also underway to determine the cause of a failure with a tornado shelter door during a severe storm this last April in Arkansas.  The failure of the opening unfortunately resulted in a fatality of one of the shelter occupants.

We urge you to make sure the opening you are selling for a home tornado shelter will properly protect the occupants. Only doors, frames and hardware that have been tested and approved should be specified for tornado shelter openings.  Please reach out to our team for guidance on codes, standards, and the life-safety attributes of our weather resistant door openings.