When residential housing once again is healthy, we suspect that thoughts will be given to building safe rooms for protection from tornadoes and severe windstorms. In fact, it would not be surprising to see many safe rooms in existing residences built for protection.

In areas struck by tornadoes, such as Joplin, Mo., sales of small residential shelters known as safe rooms are in demand. The Associated Press reported that manufacturers can hardly keep up with demand and some states are offering grants and other financial incentives to help pay for the added protection and peace of mind. Lives have been saved by huddling inside a small steel enclosure while entire homes have been demolished.

Shelters to provide protection in areas where tornadoes occur are nothing new. They were called storm shelters, or storm cellars, and were built outside the home, buried in the yard. They were small concrete bunkers.

When you consider that 358 people, 161 in Joplin, were killed last year in the South, and 60 already this year, more and more home owners are interested in storm shelters. There are discussions about public shelters, designed for large numbers of people, but the problem is getting there in a storm. Some communities do have public shelters.

The main interest is building shelters inside existing homes.

However, of note is that since 2005, 31 community shelters have been built in Missouri, using FEMA funds, and nine others are under construction. Also, Joplin voters approved a $62 million bond issue that will be combined with insurance money and federal aid to build storm shelters at every school. The shelters will double as gyms, classrooms or kitchens. Alabama is using $49 million in FEMA money for community shelters.

Adding a safe room in a home makes sense. However, many people can’t afford the cost, from $3,500 to $6,000. The safe rooms have thick steel walls and doors and can withstand winds of up to 250 mph. Sizes vary but usually can hold only a few people. They can be bolted to the floor of a garage or custom-fitted to fit inside a home in a small space. A few have been buried in a yard. There are examples of lives saved by having a safe room.

There will be more manufacturers of safe rooms for existing homes. The demand is going to be there. New homes will include safe rooms in areas that are in “tornado alleys.”