What is FEMA 361?
FEMA 361, also known as FEMA P-361, is the official name for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) document entitled “Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms”. The latest edition, released in March 2015, has guidelines on how to design and construct the best safe rooms to protect from the high velocity flying debris that deadly tornadoes can cause.
Tornado Safe Room Guidelines
The National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA), International Code Council (ICC) and FEMA all have guidelines for designing and building a tornado room or storm safe room.
As building progressed and advanced over the years, so did the tragedies associated with tornadoes. The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country, reporting in at more than 1,200 per year. The need for storm shelters and tornado safe rooms became more and more paramount. With its years of dealing with disaster relief, FEMA developed the first guideline for the construction of a tornado safe room in 2000 - FEMA 361. Prior to that, there was no one specific guideline for storm safe rooms. The FEMA tornado shelter or storm safe room guidelines would lead to the creation and adoption of safe room standards for most building code laws.
Although it is not part of required building codes, the main reason that FEMA P-361 becomes vital is when an organization wants to add or build a safe room tornado shelter, FEMA has several grants and initiatives that building owners can take advantage of. With all of the devastation that a tornado, hurricane or any high wind event can cause, FEMA sees first-hand the impact it has on many communities and lives. In an effort to prevent loss of life, FEMA increased their available funds for FEMA tornado shelter construction programs from 30 million to 90 million in 2017. As of 2016, these programs have helped fund more than 37,000 tornado safe rooms.
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