Workers install an underground tornado shelter from rotational molder Granger Plastics Co. At left, the shelter is in place. (Granger Plastics Co. photo)
MIDDLETOWN, OHIO (April 20, 2:30 p.m. ET) — Recent tornado touchdowns near Dallas had the usual impact on Granger Plastics Co. — a spike in sales of its tornado shelters.
The Middletown rotational molder makes the shelters for markets across the country and every time a tornado hits the news, residents and businesses everywhere think about how they might protect themselves.
“We are in the business of saving lives,” Alli Cravens, Granger sales and marketing representative, said in an April 4 telephone interview. “This is a fear-driven business.”
Granger has been making tornado shelters for 17 years but in the past three years it has been supplying a much-improved shelter, Cravens said. While the structure is rotomolded from linear low density polyethylene, the door — the most critical part — has a sheet of polycarbonate sandwiched between two LLDPE sides. Also, a reversed-taper design allows the shelter to self-anchor in the ground, unlike most rival designs, which need a concrete base to hold them underground. The unit has a double-wall construction comprising a half-inch-thick inner wall and a half-inch outer wall.
Cravens said the biggest market is in the South. Alabama, for example, has a federal grant program to help homeowners acquire and set up shelters. List price for the new version of the shelter is $5,995. Excavation costs vary depending on the geology of the site. Typically the shelter floor is 62-68 inches below ground level. The door is the most exposed part of the shelter and therefore a focus for engineering and development.
Granger’s models compete with tornado shelters made of various materials, including fiberglass and steel.
Cravens said sales occur year-round for the shelters as residents prepare for the main tornado season of March to June, but demand does jump whenever a major tornado strikes. In 2012 there was significant tornado activity in January and February, spurring high sales earlier in the year than normal. Residents and businesses both are consumers of the shelters.
Granger’s tornado shelter is designed for a family of five but can hold up to seven in a pinch. They comprise a top, bottom, door, vent and stairs, which are all assembled at Middletown before the shelters are shipped.
Cravens said interest also is growing in the shelters as a defense against home invasions. The company is working on a bullet-resistant door to address that market.