ICC 500 Storm Shelter Requirements

ICC 500 is the consensus standards and codes for the construction and design for storm safe rooms and hurricane impact doors. It is the most widely adopted standards used in building codes today. 

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How was the ICC 500 developed?

After many well published tragedies from tornadoes and hurricanes, the Civil Engineering magazine introduced the concept of above ground storm shelters in 1974. In 1998 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published FEMA P-320, “Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business”, the first official guideline for the design of a safe room storm shelter.

Several large scale catastrophic tornado events brought the safe room storm shelter to the forefront.

As news coverage of tornado disasters increased substantially, so did coverage of tornado safe rooms, including a storm safe room in Oklahoma that survived an F5 tornado during May of 1999. 

Why is the ICC 500 Important?

The ICC 500 was written to give official codes and standards to the design and construction of storm safe rooms as well as hurricane impact doors. The purpose of this standard is to establish minimum requirements to protect individuals from the high winds that are produced by tornadoes and hurricanes. The standard includes all aspects relative to the design, construction and installation of the storm safe room shelter.

In 2009, the International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) incorporated ICC 500 to regulate the design and construction of buildings (and safe rooms within buildings) that are designated as storm shelters or tornado safe rooms. All states that have adopted 2015 IBC or more recent, require all storm shelters to meet the ICC 500 standard.


Storm Safe Room Building Requirements:

Looking at all the regulations for safe room doors and shelters, especially school storm shelters, here are some of the major points of safe room design:

  • Newly constructed K-12 school buildings with occupancy of 50 or more, 911 call stations; fire, rescue, ambulance and police stations as well as emergency operation centers located in the 250 mile per hour wind speed zone and additionally in states that have adopted the IBC 2015 or later, are required to incorporate storm safe room shelters to ICC 500 standards
  • Any buildings that are being constructed in areas that have adopted IBC 2015 or later and decide to include a storm safe room, those tornado safe room are required to construct them in accordance with ICC 500 standards
  • Any building that wishes to add or construct a storm safe room and wants to participate in the FEMA Safe Room Grant Funding Program, you are required to not only built them to ICC 500 requirements, but additionally follow the more stringent guidelines provided with in FEMA P-361 regardless of where you are located

ICC 500 Safe Room Door Advancements

While the first tornado safe room doors were big and bulky and required manual locks to secure them, safe room doors have evolved substantially. The StormDefender™ steel doors provide many design opportunities never before offered. Tested and certified to stringent ICC 500-2014 and FEMA P-361, third edition code standards, the StormDefender™ tornado safe room doors have a sleek construction, never before seen in a tornado proof door.

Now designing an ICC 500 storm shelter does not have to be dark or claustrophobic, but allow for open airy designs. StormDefender tornado and hurricane impact doors embed into precast concrete, creating minimal protrusion into the space and allowing for the coil to be hidden above a finished ceiling or soffit. StormDefender safe room doors are versatile enough to cover banks of windows, multiple openings and used in rooms previously not associated with safe room storm shelters.

But don’t let the sleek design fool you, StormDefender tornado shelter doors have been tested to resist debris up to 100 MPH and held effortlessly when exposed to wind pressure of 300 psf positive and negative pressure. This door is built to protect any opening through two of Mother Nature’s most dangerous natural disasters.