With Hurricane Florence fresh in our minds, many people – residents, business owners and contractors – are thinking of how to best withstand the high winds of massive storms and tornadoes.
For many of these individuals, the answer could very well lie in one building material: concrete masonry units (CMU).
CMUs have a high mass level that helps resist the extreme uplift and overturning forces created by tornadoes and hurricanes. When paired with grout and steel, these reinforced walls create a cohesive unit that can withstand not only extreme winds, but also objects flying at the structure at speeds that can surpass 200 miles per hour. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states, a tornado-proof building must essentially be missile-proof for this reason.
Because preparing for hurricanes is an annual occurrence for millions of Americans, building with CMU can help bring peace of mind in knowing the structure is capable of standing up to some of the most extreme conditions on the planet.
Even when an entire structure isn’t built with concrete masonry block, a safe room can be utilized as part of the building to provide a space for occupants in the case of a high-wind event. Although the costs may be slightly more initially than using other materials, the savings in storm-damage repairs and potential insurance discounts due to its durability more than makes up for it. Further, the protection of human life is priceless.
Safe rooms provide near-absolute protection in the face of extreme winds. As wind enters a structure, it can push on the walls and roof from the inside. A safe room’s CMU walls help protect occupants in this scenario, as most structures are not designed to withstand winds from both the inside and outside.
FEMA has published a report titled “Taking Shelter from the Storm,” detailing considerations and precautions that must be taken in the construction of a safe room.