As spring approaches, so does the threat of extreme weather. Two Oklahoma companies offer locally manufactured solutions to enhance year-round personal safety.

In 1999, Richard Crow and his family lived through the terror of the EF5 tornado that tore through his hometown of Perry, so he bought an underground garage shelter and learned how to install it. That was the beginning of Ground Zero Shelters.

“It started with one crew – Richard and one other person – installing other brands of storm shelters,” says Debbie Schaefer, office manager and Richard’s mother, part of the four-generation family business. “Today we have 10 crews (serving) 18 states installing storm shelters and safe rooms that are totally manufactured by Ground Zero Shelters with a lifetime warranty.”

Outdoor underground concrete shelters have been the common home option for storm safety in this region for decades, and Ground Zero Shelters offers an updated version. But their most popular product is the large, flat-top, underground garage unit that accommodates at least seven people, can be installed in new or existing homes and doesn’t require families to go outside in the storm to seek safety. The extra-large model holds at least 12.

“A hand winch allows the lid to be opened even when covered by debris,” explains Schaefer. “And they come equipped with GPS coordinates so homeowners can notify local authorities of their location.”

The above-ground safe room is the newest alternative in storm safety. Often placed in the garage, these heavy steel units are just as safe installed outside as long as it is anchored into a four-inch thick reinforced concrete slab. Ground Zero Shelters offers units from four-by-six feet up to custom sizes of 10-by-10 feet.

The late Tulsa meteorologist Jim Giles was committed to weather safety both on and off television. In a partnership with Sapulpa’s Bennett Steel, Jim Giles’ Certified Safe Rooms also offers above-ground safe rooms engineered to withstand the force of an EF5 tornado.

The company deals exclusively in various sizes of safe rooms that are compliant with the Americans for Disabilities Act and promotes a special three-lock system that makes their units double as a walk in safe – perfect for storage of guns, jewelry and important papers – and a safe haven from burglars and other home invasion crimes.

Products from both companies exceed the standards established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and are certified by either the American Tornado Shelter Association (ATSA) or the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA).  

Crow is so passionate about giving back to the community and promoting storm safety that Ground Zero Shelters has donated numerous shelters to victims of recent storms, from Joplin, Mo., to Piedmont, including working with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and providing three units to Homeland Security.

For more information, visit their websites at and

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