Meet Tom Sivak, executive director of Hamilton County Emergency Management. He and his wife, Bridget LeClair and their son, moved to Fishers last October after accepting the new professional position in Fishers. Tom and Bridget researched house after house when looking for a home in Fishers and fell in love with one that did not have a basement. Some people would think there is nothing to do about the situation and accept that they have no basement in the event of a dangerous storm. With Tom’s background, however, he knew that he could have the house he wanted and still provide a safe shelter for his family during storms. “When it comes to preparedness, awareness is the number one goal,” Tom stated during our interview.
Being aware of what could happen will make you take the necessary precautions to be prepared. Tom was deployed to Henryville after damaging tornadoes swept through the southern Indiana town last year. The experience showed that he had to take measures to ensure his family would be safe during an emergency, and to give him peace of mind while he was out on the job.
Tom began researching underground storm shelters (I see your brain envisioning a storm shelter like that in “The Wizard of Oz”, but what Tom found isn’t like that.) He found an underground shelter made of a fiberglass material that can seat five or six people. Yes, I said seat – it has benches molded into the design. There is a latch that can be locked or unlocked from both the exterior and interior of the unit. There are covered air vents so oxygen can get inside while keeping water out. The air vents also serve as a way to communicate with anyone outside of the shelter in the event someone is inside and debris has fallen on top of the unit. (I tested it and could hear the person inside talking after the lid had been closed.)
So, let’s get down to the price tag of this storm shelter! I do not have a basement in my house and I know there are many homes in Fishers without basements. Is there a price that you can place on being prepared? This shelter cost Tom and his family $4,500 including installation. This is probably cheaper than a hospital bill for any injuries should you survive a tornado. It took three weeks for the company to install.
Sivak offered some pointers for consideration before installing an underground storm shelter: 1. Check with the Town of Fishers for any license or permits needed to install it. 2. Check with your homeowner association for easements and property lines before installation. 3. Check FEMA standards for safe rooms before purchasing one. 4. Research the company you plan to use before buying one.
“I have hesitations referring one company over another to do the job, but just Google ‘safe rooms’ or ‘storm shelters’ and many options will show up,” Tom noted. With his storm shelter installed, Tom knows the next time he’s called out he will have peace of mind knowing he did what was necessary to keep his family safe from a dangerous storm.