When we moved to Ten-Acre Ranch nearly nine years ago, we knew we would eventually have to put in some kind of storm shelter. I was not overly concerned at the time; we had so many upstart expenses and repairs to be made that we just did not feel we could afford such a purchase. But as the years and near-miss tornadoes rolled along, we realized we did not feel comfortable without a safe place to take shelter in storms. Last year in May, I was entertaining a couple who had come by to check on our hummingbird population. We also managed to spot Daisy deer in the woods while they were here. Caught up in conversation about tracking hummingbirds and discovering nests, and then spending a little time with Daisy, we had not paid attention to the volatile weather moving in until rain drops began to pelt down. Hurrying up the slope as the rain became heavier, we reached the back porch just in time to hear a few claps of thunder, and then the tornado sirens going off – alerting the town to take cover! Having nowhere to go, we all laughingly decided we were each prepared to weather whatever nature brought our way. Fortunately, the “all clear” siren blew a short time later. That evening, I heard a small tornado had hit ground just south of town and roped back up fairly quickly. This had not been our only close call over the years, but it did drive home that, even though I did not fear so much for FD and myself, I was concerned about folks who might be visiting, and felt responsible to have a place of shelter available.
Of course, with the storm season in the past, I promptly forgot about a shelter until I went to the Oklahoma State Fair last September and noticed some safe rooms on display. FD and I already knew we wanted an external, above-ground safe room. Anything in ground was not an option as our soil is mostly sand and clay, and during torrential rain, drainage is an issue. We also heard from too many handicapped and elderly people that it could be quite difficult to get down in a shelter with steep steps, and often climbing back out was near impossible without some assistance. Now in our mid-fifties, we knew we wanted a shelter to be easily accessible for all ages and handicaps. With no room in our home to build an indoor safe room, we needed some type of structure that could be located in our backyard, near the house, and easily accessible. The outdoor, above-ground safe rooms on display at the state fair, offered by Area Septic Services, Inc., represented just what we were looking for!
When we finally managed to get financing together early this spring for the safe room, there was quite a waiting list for production of these shelters. May 2016 came and went, producing large amounts of rainfall, along with the usual tornadoes and threats of severe weather, which did not help delivery of our new safe room. Finally, in early June, despite getting more than an inch of rain the week before, we opted to go ahead with our scheduled date of delivery. The ground would still be a bit soft but we would just have to deal with ruts made by the truck bringing in the twenty-one thousand pound structure. In preparation for the shelter’s delivery, we spent the prior week trimming trees so that nothing would interfere with the setup process.
As luck would have it and, as they say, “The best laid plans of mice and men go awry”. The path we cleared ended up not being the path onto our property that the setup man chose, and for a good reason – the truck crane could not bring the structure up and over the privacy fence from the angle FD and I had planned. The truck had to be backed into a narrow area between the house and a huge elm tree – one we had contemplated cutting down long ago, but left in place because Daisy deer loves to nibble leaves from its low-hanging branches. Fortunately, we had trimmed a few of the limbs that protruded towards the house, leaving just barely enough space to back the big rig up to the fence. Another fortunate thing, was that the truck driver was not only very professional and polite, he was also quite skilled at his job and able to avoid driving directly over our water lines next to the house.
This man did all of the installation work by himself. I marveled at how quickly the whole process went. Before leaving, our installer left us with a couple of warnings – Do no use the shelter as a storage building because, when an emergency occurs, there often is not enough time to clear out a lot of junk. He advised keeping only necessary, emergency and survival items in the storm shelter. And, he warned, do not let children go in and out of the structure lest they somehow manage to lock themselves inside. Once bolted shut from the inside, a panicked child cannot figure out how to release the spring latches that hold the bolts in place, leaving cutting the door open as the only option for rescue.
And long after the man left in his rig, I discovered a third bit of advice, or rather, a warning about how NOT to shut the heavy door. Not only would you never want to smash your fingers or hand in the door itself, but the latch has a tricky little space between the handle and the stop where one might put a lock or a carabiner to keep the door secure (off-season or when children are around), as I found out the hard way. When my mom-in-law brought over a dozen fresh eggs that afternoon, I proudly showed her our new purchase. As I closed the door, I pinched my fingers between the two small holes in the latch. Quickly, I tried to pull free but the handle would not release my fingers! Reacting to my pain, I dropped the egg carton and opened the door with my free hand, releasing my pinched fingers. At this, I heard my mom-in-law scream, “Oh NO!!!!” and I quickly assured her that I was fine, despite the excruciating pain I felt from the pinch! But, in turning my attention to her, I realized she was not concerned with my hand at all. Instead, she was on the ground with the egg carton cradled in her hands, lamenting that I had broken four of those precious eggs! You would just have to know my mother-in-law to fully appreciate the moment. Those eggs might as well have been made of fine crystal! Oh well, I am sure she is really happy that we now have a safe place to shelter from a storm – as long as it does not come at breakfast time and cause us to drop and break one of her beautiful, farm-fresh eggs in our haste… 😉
© 2016 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…