Storm rooms coming to a chain near you
As home owners prepare for another wicked hurricane season, DuPont is gearing up to launch its Kevlar in-house shelters soon.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - With red flags flying high for the 2006 hurricane season, consumers who are thinking about sprucing up their homes this year may be better off adding a lifesaving "storm room" instead of that fancy whirlpool.
Chemical maker DuPont (Research), which invented such products as nylon, Teflon and the bullet-resistant Kevlar fiber, has been testing the market for pre-built storm rooms in the tornado-prone regions of Texas and Oklahoma for the past two years.
"We worked with a few authorized distributors in those regions and found that the concept was well received," said DuPont spokesman Anthony Farina, adding that the company later expanded the pilot test to hurricane-affected areas like Florida.
Now, DuPont may soon be joining forces with a major home improvement retailer to market its pre-built storm rooms to shoppers nationwide as early as the third quarter, Diane Gulyas, DuPont's chief marketing officer, said at an industry conference in New York last week.
Gulyas did not disclose the name of its retail partner but indicated that DuPont already is a key supplier to both leading home improvement chains Home Depot (Research) and its No. 2 rival Lowe's (Research).
Hurricanes, tornadoes, bullets
Farina said DuPont's storm rooms are certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a protective shelter against tornadoes and even a powerful category 5 hurricane.
Additionally, the walls and door are reinforced with Kevlar, the same material used in bullet-resistant vests.
According to company information, Kevlar is five times stronger than steel and provides a powerful and highly resistant barrier against wind borne debris, which Farina said is one of the leading causes of injuries in major hurricanes.
The pre-built storm room comes in two sizes of 4 feet by 6 feet and 4 feet by 8 feet but the custom-made sizes can vary, Farina said.
He said the room can be easily added to an existing home or incorporated into most new building designs and costs on average from $6,000 to $10,000.
"A lot of people choose to use the storm room as a secondary room like wine cellar or a walk-in closet," he said.
According to the DuPont, the room will resist winds up to 250 miles an hour. Electricity and plumbing can be added and cell phones and radios should keep working even at the height of devastating storms like last year's hurricane Katrina and Rita.
The one-two punch of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita made 2005 the deadliest hurricane season in recent history.
Hurricane Katrina left more than 1,300 people dead in and around the Gulf Coast region and devastated New Orleans. Between Katrina and Rita, which struck the Texas-Louisiana border a month after Katrina, as many as 300,000 homes were destroyed.
2006 could be another turbulent year, with some experts predicting an above-average hurricane season and at least one major storm to make landfall.
Even more troubling is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that climate changes will result in increasingly severe hurricane activity in the Atlantic in years to come.
Julia Roth, 46, said she and her husband, Rick, decided to add a custom-made storm room to their new home that's being built in Canyon Lake, Texas, for two reasons.
"My husband was in a (storm) as a child in Iowa," said Roth. "We moved to Texas from the Midwest. Houses in Texas don't have basements. They're built on concrete slabs. Where do you go when there's a storm? So when we decided to build our new house, we wanted a storm room in it," Roth said.
But the couple also picked up a few lessons from last year's two big storms.
"People don't realize that it's not so much the rain or the wind but the flying debris that kills people in a hurricane. If Kevlar can stop a bullet, it should be able to stop storm debris."
Roth said she learned about the Kevlar storm room from their builder. "We paid about $7,000 for it. It's not cheap but then you start to think that if it is too cheap, would it really work?" she said.
Lowe's did not return calls for comment and Home Depot did not immediately provide a comment for the story.
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