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Oklahoma tornadoes: Demand for shelters rises after storms

Installers said more people are looking to put in storm shelters after a recent string of devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma.
BY JAY F. MARKS Published: May 26, 2011

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.

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