Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Houses and apartments consider safe rooms


With recent tornados hitting the state of Alabama, apartments and housing communities are considering taking extra steps such as adding safe rooms to protect their residents.

“We’re going to have to deal with the issues of high density homes, apartments and condominiums; in other words, should they have safe rooms?” Mayor Walt Maddox said. “I think they should. I think it’s something we should require of all new structures that are apartments or condominiums or things of that nature.

“I don’t think we can necessarily do that for residential, but I do think, I mean if you look at Charleston Square, of course it’s an older facility, but you really had nowhere to go. I would imagine that’s the case in most of these high-density areas. We see how vulnerable they are,” Maddox said.

Craig Williams, owner of J. Craig Homes, has been working with property owners throughout the state to install safe rooms in apartments and houses.

“There are two different ways to do it,” Williams said. “With new construction, the best way to do it would be with four six-inch thick concrete walls that would be anchored to the foundation if you are on the first floor. The door would be a solid wooden door with latches on the inside that would pin down all four corners to keep the pressure from sucking anyone out of the shelter.”

Ideally, you would install a safe room on the bottom floor of a house or an apartment building, but Williams said it is possible to place these structures on higher floors.

“If you are going to a second or third floor or to a house that is already built, you would go into the flooring and go all the way to the top of the on the next floor and anchor it,” Williams said. “It would take a lot of reinforcing and extra materials, but it is possible. You could camouflage it and make it look like a walk in closet.”

Even though you can place a safe room on a higher floor, being anywhere besides the bottom floor lowers the effectiveness of the structure.

“Really, you want to be on the first floor,” Williams said. “You can put them on higher floors, but it wouldn’t be as impactful.”

Most of the buildings that were destroyed in Tuscaloosa were older buildings that are not up to the standards of the city’s new building codes.

“The new building codes address the higher winds that you get in hurricanes and tornadoes,” Williams said. “The buildings that received the most substantial damage were older buildings that do not meet the new codes.”

Despite these new improvements, natural disasters are still unpreventable, and no matter how much protection you have, it would be nearly impossible to stop the devastation that they cause.

“If a tornado drops on top of you, no building will protect you,” he said. “These new safe rooms can increase your chances of survival.”


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