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Old 06-15-2013, 11:54 PM
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Default Shipping container for a storm shelter



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I live in the SE coastal are of NC and I'm looking at using a shipping container for a storm shelter. It will have to be an above ground shelter because any attempt to bury a container or build an underground block shelter is out of the question because they would fill up with water in no time.

I want to add a steel door on the side for access and will need to anchor and ground it before we could use it. I work at the port here and the containers don't seem to be bothered by hurricaines unless they are stacked 4 high, so I figure it will be better than my wooden framed house. I will not be putting it on a concrete slab.

Any tips, links or ideas would be appreciated.
Old 06-16-2013, 12:19 AM
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I've seen empty unsecured shipping containers tossed around in a hurricane here in Texas.

Unless you have a way to secure them to the bedrock or to a slab I wouldn't want to be in one during a class 4 or 5 storm.

Once secured it should be proof against most debris though.
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Old 06-16-2013, 02:03 AM
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When the containers are stacked and latched together, up and down and placed side by side, they are pretty much all connected together and form a pretty solid structure where the wind can't really get a good toe hold on them. Single containers will not be that stable in a hurricane.

Anchoring to a slab, or using plenty of deep screw in anchors, or deadman anchors, with the straps/cables going over the top as well as attached at the bottom and the corners will be needed. I'd also reinforce it some, and use at least some foam insulation board on the inside, even if fairly thin, so you don't go deaf when it gets hammered with debris. Have a easy open, but very secure door latch so the door doesn't come open in high winds. Have a good hydraulic jack, some cribbing, pry bars, and chainsaw to force the door open if something blocks it, like an over turned vehicle or downed tree. Might even be good to put a simple, well built top hatch with ladder in it, for the same reason.

Along with the noise insulation, I would either pad it up really well in case it does get loose and roll, ore better yet, bolt down some old bucket seats out of wrecked vehicle, with seatbelts still in good shape and make sure everyone is strapped in, with a bicycle helmet or better strapped on their head.

Just a few thoughts and my opinion.
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Old 06-16-2013, 04:34 AM
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We went to help a grandma and her grandson who made it through one of the tornados last month in a shipping container. The container was adjacent to a mobile home they were living in. Everything destroyed except the container. The container rocked as the tornado went through and a tree fell on the container which blocked them initially getting out but they made through the ordeal without a scratch.
I am not saying that shipping containers is the way to go. I am just saying that in this instance two people were saved by going into a shipping container AND by the grace of God. They lost most everything but feel really blessed by all the help from local and distant folks who have just stopped by to offer assistance.
I should note that the container was pointed in the direction of the tornado. I am thinking that it might have been a different story if the container was broadside to the tornado when it came through.
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Old 06-16-2013, 04:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IamZeke View Post
I've seen empty unsecured shipping containers tossed around in a hurricane here in Texas.

Unless you have a way to secure them to the bedrock or to a slab I wouldn't want to be in one during a class 4 or 5 storm.

Once secured it should be proof against most debris though.
A hurricane is not a storm.
Old 06-16-2013, 09:04 AM
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I have owned a couple and I would say it depends on how you do it. First, living on the coast, how high above sea level are you? That is going to be the big thing. Storm surge where I lived (onboard my sailboat) was estimated 18 feet in a direct hit Cat 3. Don't even guess if a Cat 5 hit. If you are not 30 ft above sea level I would say Bug Out. If you are above 30 ft. I would say place container, pour concrete footing at the corners and bolt down with 1in. bolts. The corners are the strong spots. The side walls are weak. Wind can give you problems there. I would say after the corners are secured, build a block wall up to near the top and use fill from the top of the block out about 25-30 feet, sloping out to keep the higher winds and debris from the container walls. I bought insulated containers. Most work already done. I would add vents for fresh air and a door on the end (instead of the standard truck like full size doors. I would also build a small wall there also and backfill, but far enough out to not block the door (that should open inward- along with big bar to block it closed from the inside. Otherwise I would rather have a poured steel re-enforced concrete that would be tornado proof.
Old 06-16-2013, 10:59 AM
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Good ideas to keep in mind. I live far enough inland that storm surge isn't an issue, but the ground is still just sand. I will have to try and anchor them in place as best as I can.
I have rode out hurricaines on the port and the containers here are not lashed together. They simply stack them, empty or loaded on the asphalt lots in rows for easy access. The single ones don't even slide around in the cat 3 winds, but the stacked one will tip over. Of course with a tornado, if it gets hit, it will become airborne as will anything else. My biggest concern is flying degris, tree limbs etc. Our wooden house as opposed to a steel box. I have a lot of concerns to address.
The noise issue is something I hadn't looked at until now. I'll look into that and possibly coating the interior with bedliner also. Being inside a faraday cage in an electrical storm is a concern too. Keep the ideas coming.
Old 06-16-2013, 11:03 AM
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I'd think that a shipping container would make a great above ground storm shelter.

A heavy slab should be more than enough to provide enough anchor points and can be raised to get it above any possible flood waters.

It might be pretty noisy in a tornado, but I'd rather be in that than in a stick home.
Old 06-16-2013, 11:10 AM
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I'd think that a shipping container would make a great above ground storm shelter.

A heavy slab should be more than enough to provide enough anchor points and can be raised to get it above any possible flood waters.

It might be pretty noisy in a tornado, but I'd rather be in that than in a stick home.
My thoughts too.
Old 06-16-2013, 11:25 AM
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I'm in the same part of the world, Not to far away from where I live, someone has a container that is partially covered with soil.
I wouldn't mind riding out a hurricane in a container that had been tied down, and sealed good, and a nice clay berm piled high up if not over the container.
Make it look like a bid flower bed, or a pile a dirt for 4 wheeler to play on and folks wouldn't think about too much!
Old 06-16-2013, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Survivalguy72 View Post
A hurricane is not a storm.
Really? http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/def...lish/hurricane

Definition of hurricane
noun

a storm with a violent wind, in particular a tropical cyclone in the Caribbean.


Can we move past semantics now?
Old 06-16-2013, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
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I'd think that a shipping container would make a great above ground storm shelter.

A heavy slab should be more than enough to provide enough anchor points and can be raised to get it above any possible flood waters.

It might be pretty noisy in a tornado, but I'd rather be in that than in a stick home.
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I'm in the same part of the world, Not to far away from where I live, someone has a container that is partially covered with soil.
I wouldn't mind riding out a hurricane in a container that had been tied down, and sealed good, and a nice clay berm piled high up if not over the container.
Make it look like a bid flower bed, or a pile a dirt for 4 wheeler to play on and folks wouldn't think about too much!
After anchoring it, I had originally thought about building up a berm perhaps half way up the side to help deflect the winds, but I will need it to be a few inches off the ground to allow water to drain away and prevent the floors from rotting away. I will probably try several of the long screw in anchors from the corner strong points and perhaps the straps also. If nothing else, they would help ground the box also.
Old 06-16-2013, 11:50 AM
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After anchoring it, I had originally thought about building up a berm perhaps half way up the side to help deflect the winds, but I will need it to be a few inches off the ground to allow water to drain away and prevent the floors from rotting away. I will probably try several of the long screw in anchors from the corner strong points and perhaps the straps also. If nothing else, they would help ground the box also.
If you look at most shipping containers and you will see forklift slots on then sides at the bottom. So every shipping container is about 6" off the ground already. If you think that is enough clearance then all you need to do is drill enough drain holes.
Old 06-16-2013, 12:00 PM
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I would not use a shipping container for a storm shelter. Why? Because it is not built like a safe room that is designed to be able to absorb direct impacts from debris flying as much as 300 mph. Plus, what about falling debris, LIKE A SEMI TRUCK?

If that is your only thoughts because of their cheap availability, you are not thinking hard enough.

Even anchored, I would not trust one in a strong tornado. Even trailer homes that are anchored have been tossed in tornadoes and shipping containers are the same shape as the average trailer home. Yes, they are built of steel instead of aluminum clad 2x2 stick frame construction, but shipping containers are built so that they are very strong at the corners (for loaded stacking) and not so much along the long sides.

Even if you were to set a shipping container on level ground and then mound dirt up and over the shipping container, the roof and sides could start to collapse under the weight of the soil and there WOULD be rust issues to deal with, so it might only be good enough to use for a few short years.

I don't know what the cost of the concrete storm shelter that many septic tank companies build and sell would be in your area are, but that could be sat ON THE GROUND and then mounded over with dirt if ground water is the problem and still give you much better protection than the shipping container you are thinking about.

I realize that you see these shipping containers every day and you think, "Hey, I know what I could do with one of those!", but there are much better options when it comes to really protecting your family. Please don't take chances when it comes to protecting your family. A false sense of protection IS NOT really protection.

I'm sure some will disagree with me and these have been my own opinion. You are the one that has to sleep at night with your decision. Good luck with that.

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Old 06-16-2013, 12:04 PM
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A good friend of mine builds homes on the shore and most of his work is engineering piers for their foundation.
If you do not use piers where there is the posibility of high water, you are basiclly wastin time .
Piers and elevating with solid skirting all round, is my advise .
Concrete piers sunk deep, and anchored to the structure thuroughly, usually provide the best performance .
1, to get in, one must assend not decend as into a swimming pool.
2, the view is more defenceable and steel shutters can prevent wind dammage.
3, Cameras below and all round are safer then windows and personal exposure.
4,it is easier to secure against break in.(depending on how it is designed.)
5, I would use zink annodes to distract corrosion and perserve the container.
6.I would use solar pannels, both photovolic and thermal water heating, on the roof for power and a battery bank in it's own cabinet well ventelated to the out side.
7. using one or more of the piers ,hide the electrical and plumbing if any .
8. from a floor hatch /ladder/stariway, use a hoist as an elevator for lifting/lowering, preps and furniture.
Learn the hight water can reach and exceed the expectations anticipating the weather systems to worsen as the years progress.
Being a hi profile you might surround it with indigenous trees.
A wood stove would be great, but alcohol might be better,no smoke, and easier to store..
again, one of the piers could hide the resivour,("6" steel pipe) for a liquid fuel .
Old 06-16-2013, 12:15 PM
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Nothing will stand up to a direct tornado hit. Even a block house will lose and go flying.
High water isn't an issue either as I don't live on the beach or in a flood zone. I live 20 miles inland and is in a wooded area surrounded on three sides by forest. Tree limbs and even trees snapping off are concerns. I have to think that the 20 foot steel container is better than a small wooden house. It's not perfect by no stretch of the imagination.
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Old 06-16-2013, 12:31 PM
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After anchoring it, I had originally thought about building up a berm perhaps half way up the side to help deflect the winds, but I will need it to be a few inches off the ground to allow water to drain away and prevent the floors from rotting away. I will probably try several of the long screw in anchors from the corner strong points and perhaps the straps also. If nothing else, they would help ground the box also.
Berming the sides was also a thought I had after my first post. That would help keep the wind off, debris from hitting part of it, good insulation and sound properties.

As far as lightning goes you might consider making a tall post with a large copper wire like telephone poles running to a ground rod close. That would give lightning a direct route to a proper ground and it should help to absorb the majority of the strike straight into the ground.

I rigged up my temp power pole after we hooked up to the main after building. I bought two ground rods, one in the ground and the other I mounted on top of the pole. I clamped them together with that copper wire they use on utility poles for grounding:



I was concerned with side flash if lightning hit those trees. This pole is between the trees and my main box on the exterior wall.
Old 06-16-2013, 12:35 PM
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One other concern is air pressure.

What sort of doors are you thinking of using? The ones that come on a container are very secure and lock from the outside.

Doors made to lock from the inside might be far less strong.

Have you seen how a stick home tends to explode as the sudden change in air pressure between the inside and the outside of the home are created by a close tornado?
Old 06-16-2013, 12:44 PM
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One other concern is air pressure.

What sort of doors are you thinking of using? The ones that come on a container are very secure and lock from the outside.

Doors made to lock from the inside might be far less strong.

Have you seen how a stick home tends to explode as the sudden change in air pressure between the inside and the outside of the home are created by a close tornado?
I'm looking at cutting through one side and welding a steel frame in place and installing a steel door. Something like a outside commercial security door and frame you see on buildings.
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Old 06-16-2013, 12:47 PM
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If there is anyway that you could remove the existing doors and mount them to open inward you'd really have something strong. Just a passing thought..
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