More and more Oklahomans are opting for safe rooms, and Tulsa is widely considered the center of the safe-room universe. It's strange to think that 10 years ago, there really were no above-ground storm shelters, and people used to think they were strange. The News On 6â€™s Steve Berg reports nowadays, it's becoming the norm.
Keith Roberts grew up in Bixby in the 1970's when there were few shelter options.
"Just sitting in the hallway with mom and dad, my sister just like everybody else did I guess back then," said Roberts.
But his shelter of choice now is an eight-foot tall, 4,000 pound, solid steel safe room. The one he chose is built by the Tulsa-based Family Safe company, which first started building them in 1999. They've fine-tuned the design over the past eight years, but founder Vince Mims says one of the biggest changes has been the industry oversight. Five years ago, the National Storm Shelter Association was created, which worked with Texas Tech University to solidify the standards.
"The total industry was unregulated,â€ said Mims. â€œThere were no standards to build to, other than one company going out and doing the best they can."
He says anyone could claim just about anything. Now he says you can check a manufacturer's credentials with the NSSA. He also suggests checking with the Better Business Bureau and even with Texas Tech directly if you want. The business is growing at lightning speed. In 1999, Mims says he was the only one in the Tulsa phonebook. Now there are more than 20. In fact, one was founded by one of our own, the late Jim Giles. People around here are well aware of safe rooms, but his sales are picking up around the country.
"Tennessee's really hot, and Dallas is really hot," said Mims.
It's a long way from the days of huddling in a hallway
"Thought this would be a better option than that," said Roberts.
Because they're inside the home, the safe rooms can also be a good shelter from intruders and for storing valuables.
To learn more about tornadoes and the damage they can cause, visit our tornado information webpage