Collapsible Storm Shelters: saving space while saving lives?

Collapsible Storm Shelters: saving space while saving lives?

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At just 17", it's makers say the collapsible storm shelter can withstand an EF5 tornado and armed intruder. Image via stayinghome.com At just 17", it's makers say the collapsible storm shelter can withstand an EF5 tornado and armed intruder. Image via stayinghome.com

Sometimes the worst of tragedies can bring about the greatest innovations. That is true of the recent storms and school shootings. Both left children dead and one inventor believed those deaths could have been prevented.

Click here for the second part of this story to see how parents are upset one district won't let them privately raise money to put these shelters in their school.

"When you see something like that going on and you realize, on one hand you have a good feeling you are developing something that at least in the future you hope it could prevent this from happening again, but on the other hand you know it's not there and it's not doing anybody any good until it gets out in the public sector yet," said Mike Vogt, president of the Staying Home Corporation in Harrisonville, Missouri.

Vogt's latest invention began with an idea to help the elderly have better access to storm shelters during severe weather. But the problem of where to put a shelter that was easily accessible, but mindful of space restrictions quickly became apparent.

"We developed a storm shelter that could be folded up in a home when it's not being used," Vogt told Fox 25, "And then deployed when you needed it."

See the shelter that passed the toughest test for shelters here.

The idea of a shelter that folds up is not the first thing that comes to mind when seeking protection from a storm, but after a lot of trial and error the design came together.

Vogt and his team took their prototype to the National Wind Institute on the Texas Tech University campus. There it was put through the rigors of what nature could throw at a shelter. The first design failed to meet expectations, but after a redesign the Hide-Away Shelter was back in Lubbock.

"Texas Tech was where we figured out what we needed to do and how to make this work," Vogt said, "And in fact on the deployable shelter it got tested more than most, per the professor down there because of the uniqueness of it."

But what does that testing mean?

"It means that number one the customer knows he's got a safe product it's been through a very rigorous test," said Larry Tanner the director of the Debris Impact Facility.

"We can analyze numerically for our wind pressure but we have to full scale test for debris impacts," Tanner told Fox 25.

The debris impact facility shoots large pieces of lumber out of a pressurize air cannon to simulate the strength of debris during a tornado. The goal is to try to identify and destroy any vulnerable spots on shelter prototypes. A passing grade means no dents larger than three inches in.

Once a shelter passes the Texas Tech tests, Tanner said it means that shelter meets the standards required for any shelter grant programs. Research at Texas Tech helped pioneer the above-ground shelter industry and continues to provide clues to help make shelters and homes stronger and safer.

"It's been told for too many years that the only safe place is underground and quite truthfully that is just false," Tanner said.

Debris impact wasn't the only concern for the Hide-Away Shelter. During the development of the shelter the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary happened. Vogt saw it as an opportunity to make his shelter safer.

"We use a steel that stops a .30 caliber armor piercing round," Vogt said, "Which is a level 9 ballistic rating and it is as high as any safe room we know that exists anywhere in the U.S. today."

The Hide-Away shelter sticks out from the wall just 17-inches when it is not in use and Vogt worked to design a model that would fit an entire classroom full of children.

A school-sized version is now installed in a school near the factory in Harrisonville. Vogt demonstrated how if an intruder enters the school the shelter can be deployed in seconds. Once children are inside they are safe. If the threat is severe weather; the shelter comes with pre-drilled anchors that can be bolted down in minutes, which Vogt said independent testing confirms will withstand a tornado.

"I would love my kids in one of these," Vogt said, "One of the criteria we talked about is we wanted to make sure we had the strongest shelter on the market."

 

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