The phones are ringing even more often than usual at companies that install storm shelters.
“Pandemonium is a better word,” said Mike Shaw, sales manager at SmartSafe Storm Shelters in Oklahoma City. “Everyone in Oklahoma that doesn't have a shelter wants one.”
John Daum, Oklahoma City-area salesman for FamilySAFE Shelters, said the increase in calls is “kind of a shame.”
“We hoped that people would plan a little better,” he said.
A spate of recent storms has forced more local residents to ponder what they have to do to stay safe when threatened by tornadoes or other severe weather, installers said.
“We're always busy,” said OZ SafeRooms director Jim Caruso, “but it gets worse now.”
Caruso said the busy season for shelter installers runs from April through June, but right now Del City-based OZ already is booked through the end of June.
OZ was formed after form specialist Andrew Zagorski was approached by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to design an aboveground safe room that could withstand a powerful tornado.
Caruso said the safe room designed by Zagorski can survive a tornado strike on its own, without the protection of the surrounding structure.
OZ safe rooms are made out of a large amount of concrete, so the company needs a lot of room to assemble the forms.
“We form and pore them right on site,” Caruso said. “Our smallest unit is just under 40,000 pounds of concrete.”
A 25-square-foot room, which is large enough for about five people, costs about $7,500.
FamilySAFE specializes in steel aboveground shelters, Daum said.
Daum became a salesman for the Tulsa area company after buying one of its shelters himself in 2004.
He asked a lot of questions while exploring his shelter options because he wanted to spend his money wisely.
Daum said he was impressed with the testing FamilySAFE conducted on its product to ensure it would be safe. He offered to let the company show off its shelter in his northwest Oklahoma City home and ended up joining its sales force.
Shaw said SmartSafe's most popular shelter is one mounted in the garage floor, but the company offers a variety of other options.
Shaw said the company's shelters sell for $3,500 to $5,000.
That kind of investment was worth it for Edmond resident Cyndy Hoenig, who sheltered more than a dozen people and even a few pets during Tuesday night's storms.
Hoenig put in an underground shelter after she moved back to Oklahoma in 2001 after spending 20 years in California. She added one above ground a year later because she didn't like going underground.
On Tuesday, Hoenig had so many people at her house that she and a friend were relegated to the laundry room because both of her shelters were full.
She said she gladly ceded her spot in a shelter to make sure there was room for her four daughters and eight grandchildren.
“It didn't really bother me,” Hoenig said. “I wanted those kids safe.”