Some East Tennesseeans add storm shelters to their home

VONORE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The terror and destruction of the April 27th tornado outbreak is still fresh on many minds. With the possibility of more severe storms headed our way, making sure you have a safe place to ride out the weather is important, and some locals are creating news places to stay safe.

In East Tennessee the weather can change in a matter of minutes, and when severe weather does move into the region, some say their home just isn't safe enough, so now they added a storm shelter.

Gary and Rhonda Plemons have lived in Monroe County their entire lives, and the severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in April were the worst they've ever seen.

Gary said, "We were just very scared because we don't have a basement, we heard something come over our garage and our house," and Rhonda added, "Yeah we were terrified, we were down in the garage."

They thought the concrete structure was their safest place, so they hid there with their 6 year-old son under a desk.

Rhonda said, "We went outside a couple of times and we looked over the top of the trees and we saw two tornadoes go by going North."

In fact, 7 tornadoes moved through that area.

The very next day, Rhonda got online to research shelters, and found Lifesaver Storm Shelters.

Steve Koons is a general contractor and local dealer, and he said, "Truly the only safe place in a tornado situation is under ground."

Koons and Greg Lane, dealer, install the fiberglass, in-ground shelters across East Tennessee.

Steve said, "These things start out at about $3,995, installed for a 4 to 6 person."

The company boasts their shelters meet or exceed Federal standards. Living proof of that is the story of a family in Alabama that took refuge in one during the historic super tornado outbreak. "Everything is gone except for the storm shelter and there was 8 people in there that survived the storm," Greg said.

And they'll provide you with paperwork to give to your local emergency responders, "And if anything blows on it, they know exactly where to come to find you," Gary said.

There are several sizes and types of shelters available and they can be installed in new construction or a current home. Steve said, "We do a site inspection. We'll try to locate the best place for the unit, close to the home. Some people want them a little further away from the home. The safe rooms on the other hand are installed in existing garages, or in new construction primarily."

Now the Plemons just want to make sure their shelter is stocked, before storm warnings come in again, "We're going to put water in there and a little bit of food," Gary said.

They say they feel safer knowing they know have a severe weather plan and a safe place to go. Gary said, "I'd rather be safe than sorry," and Rhonda simply added, "Absolutely."

For more information on the Lifesaver Storm Shelters, CLICK HERE, or call Steve Koons at 865-414-2461 or Greg Lane at 423-836-3272.

FEMA says for a tornado, a proper shelter is a room in a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. For FEMA's guidelines on preparing or creating a safe room, CLICK HERE. For more advice from FEMA on safety precautions,

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