Wind & Tornado Resources



Tornado Safe Room Definition

A safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to protect its occupants from extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. The level of protection provided by a safe room is a function of its design parameters, including the design wind speed, wind pressure and wind-borne debris impacts.

Safe rooms constructed in accordance with FEMA guidance are intended to provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events. To be considered a FEMA safe room, the safe room must be designed and constructed in accordance with the criteria specified in FEMA P-361 – to which the drawings in FEMA P-320 were designed – as well as all applicable federal, state and local codes. When questions arise pertaining to the differences between FEMA P-361 and another code or standard, the most conservative criteria should apply.

A residential safe room serves occupants of dwelling units and has an occupant load of 16 persons or fewer. A community safe room is any safe room not defined as a residential safe room. The prescriptive solutions presented in FEMA P-320 may also be applied to community safe rooms if additional detailing and considerations are made to accommodate the unique requirements of community safe rooms.


Cover photo for the document: FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms, Third Edition (2015)

Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms (FEMA P-361) April 2015.   This publication presents important information about the design and construction of community and residential safe rooms that will provide protection during tornado and hurricane events. The third edition of FEMA P-361 presents updated and refined criteria for safe rooms compared to the second edition’s 2008 criteria.  FEMA P-361 provides the most current, up-to-date guidance on constructing a safe room that provides near-absolute protection from the deadly winds and windborne debris associated with extreme-wind events for its occupants. This edition also features clarified guidance and revised commentary to reflect 6 more years of post-damage assessments and lessons learned, including those based on many safe rooms directly impacted by tornadoes.

FEMA P-361 includes information for safe room designers, owners, and emergency management officials useful for planning, designing, and operating a safe room. Especially useful for designers, Part B of the publication has eight chapters that correspond to the chapters of the International Code Council’s® Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters (ICC/NSSA, 2014), known as ICC 500. Each chapter in Part B identifies any differences between FEMA recommended criteria and ICC 500 requirements. All safe rooms constructed with FEMA grant funds must adhere to the FEMA recommended criteria described in Part B of FEMA P-361. Link to the publication at


Foundation and Anchoring Criteria for Safe Rooms October 2015.  FEMA’s Building Science Branch presents the Foundation and Anchoring Criteria for Safe Rooms Fact Sheet.  Prefabricated safe rooms are becoming more popular as people seek protection from tornadoes. Due to the extreme forces safe rooms may experience, there are very specific foundation and anchoring requirements that, if overlooked, can leave occupants at risk of injury or death during tornadoes. The content in the Foundation and Anchoring Criteria for Safe Rooms Fact Sheet intends to help communities and people seek protection from tornadoes through measures they take when securing a safe room. The purpose of this Fact Sheet is to make homeowners, builders, safe room manufacturers, and design professionals aware of the requirements for safe room foundations and anchoring. This is part of FEMA’s ongoing mitigation effort to lessen the impact that disasters have on people and property. This fact sheet provides graphics and useful information about the foundation and anchoring criteria in FEMA P-361, Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms, Third Edition, which uses ICC 500, Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters, as a referenced standard.  See information on this publication above.


Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room (P-320)  December 2014.  FEMA recently updated FEMA_P-320_2014_508  Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business.  A safe room built for your home or small business can provide near-absolute protection for you and your family or employees from injury or death caused by the dangerous forces of extreme winds such as tornadoes and hurricanes. FEMA P-320 helps home or small business owners assess their risk and determine the best type of safe room for their needs. Since the first edition of FEMA P-320 was issued in 1998, more than 1,000,000 copies of the publication have been distributed, and FEMA grant programs have provided approximately $985 million in federal funds towards the design and construction of nearly 25,000 residential and 2,000 community safe rooms in 25 states and territories. This investment aligns with FEMA’s strategic goal to support disaster resilience and the ability of our local communities to withstand and recover rapidly from disasters.


Frequently Asked Questions: Tornado/Hurricane Safe Rooms Please find additional frequently asked questions regarding FEMA safe rooms at

For example …  What is the minimum square footage per person for a tornado community safe room?  For a tornado community safe room, the number of spaces for standing or seated, wheelchair-bound or bedridden people should be determined based on the expected occupancy of the safe room as calculated by the designer and the applicable authority having jurisdiction. However, each community safe room should be sized to accommodate at least one wheelchair space for every 200 occupants.  It is also important to note that floor areas within community safe rooms should have an access route in accordance with the International Code Council (ICC)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A117.1, Standard on Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities. The Table below shows the minimum safe room floor area per occupant for tornado community safe rooms.  *See FEMA P-361 for more information on usable safe room floor area.

Tornado Community Safe Room Occupant Minimum Usable Floor Area* per Safe Room Occupant
Standing or Seated 5 square feet
Wheelchair Bound 10 square feet
Bedridden 30 square feet

FEMA Safe Room Helpline.  If you need additional information, please contact the FEMA Safe Room Helpline by email at or by calling 866-927-2104.


Multi-Hazard Mitigation and Design Concepts: Wind, Flood, and Earthquake Training Videos

June 2014

FEMA is pleased to announce that the Multi-Hazard Mitigation and Design Concepts: Wind, Flood, and Earthquake Training Videos (FEMA P-940CD) is now available from the FEMA Publications Warehouse. Educating disaster workforces and the people who live in at-risk communities about natural hazards and the ways to mitigate risk is an important part of the FEMA mission. The new FEMA P-940CD presents three videos based on webinars abridged from the FEMA 4-day training course E312, Fundamentals of Building Science—Multi-Hazard Mitigation and Design Concepts. Each video explains the hazard (earthquake, wind, and flood) and the hazard-related damage, and provides users with common sense tools to assist with specific mitigation work.

Training tools such as FEMA P-940CD support the FEMA mission and the mission of FEMA disaster-specific programs, including the NFIP and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). Under NEHRP, FEMA is responsible for developing effective earthquake risk reduction tools and promoting their implementation, as well as supporting the development of disaster-resistant building codes and standards. The earthquake video in FEMA P-940CD begins with a brief introduction illustrated by a recent earthquake event. The video then discusses the hazards that can arise from seismic events, the types of earthquake damage commonly seen in the building environment, and seismic design basics. The video also discusses how buildings resist earthquakes and the seismic design process for new and existing construction. The target audiences for FEMA P-940CD are the FEMA disaster workforce, State and local community disaster mitigation, response, and recovery professionals, and people living in areas with a high risk of earthquake, flood, or wind.

To order your copy of FEMA P-940CD from the FEMA Publications Warehouse, call 1-800-480-2520 or fax your request to 1-240-699-0525, FEMA Publication Order Form.




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