So for years we’ve successfully designed severe storm (tornado) shelters in the Midwest USA using either FEMA 361 or ICC 500 as the standard for design.
These standards provide guidance on wind speed, design criteria, detailing recommendations, projectile resistance, venting, etc. This provides the engineer with a standard to base the design on that has been peer reviewed and adopted by the building codes.
Recently we’ve seen a lot of clients ask for a “hardened” shelter, but not a FEMA shelter. This, I believe, is their attempt to save a little money by having a “safer” space than normal without the cost of a full blown ICC 500 shelter.
The concern I always have is that when the A/E team obliges them, and designs a “sort of” FEMA shelter, the owner then subsequently plasters a sign on the area calling it a “shelter” and occupants rush into the space thinking they are safe.
A tornado comes along and a 10 ft. 2x4 pierces the non-FEMA (i.e. hollow metal doors) and someone gets injured or killed. Then the family sues the owner, and/or the owner sues the A/E team saying that they didn’t “harden” it adequately.
Since we can’t design to a non-existing standard (there’s no such thing in the A/E world as “hardened”) then the A/E is at an elevated risk. The word “Hardened” has no real meaning or measure.
So what to do? Some type of written communication is needed back to the owner stating exactly what we are, and aren’t, designing for. Not sure it would avoid a lawsuit but would certainly help in our defense.
Have any of your experienced this? What has been your response?