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Tribal Custom Storm Shelters seeks to save lives, one family at a time

Tribal shelter 6

By Stacy Martin
Managing Editor

In the last 15 years, it couldn’t have become more clear that even with state-of-the art weather warning systems and highly trained weather forecasters, killer tornadoes are massacre helpless Oklahomans.

It’s certainly clear to storm shelter builder Forrest Lee, who has come up with storm shelter designs he believes address these murderous scourges of nature.

He’s looked at them from all angles, and he’s covered every base he can think of in these modern times. But the thing he keeps in mind all of the time has become his mantra “We save lives, one family at a time.”

In May 2013, the Moore area, 24 souls were lost, most from blunt force trauma. Schools were flattened. Cries went out for public storm shelters.

In the Canadian County area, another approximately half dozen people were lost – most attempting to flee to storm in their cars. They were seeking safe shelter, but got stuck in traffic jams.

In previous years, the tragic stories could add to the list.

Too many homes are no longer in vogue in newer homes. And too many schools and public places appear ill-equipped as well.
Zudell believes he’s addressed the greatest needs for contemporary storm shelters –such as the aging population of baby boomers.

But first and foremost, he warns, “You’re not safe if you’re not underground. I don’t care what anybody says.”
Secondly, the aging population needs to be considered.

“People – years ago when they were putting in 6X8s (storm shelters) didn’t think about getting old, having bad hips, or being in a wheel chair,” he said.

“I devised a system where I take the steps out and I install a hydraulic lift that I mount to the base of their shelter that comes up to the door so they can just walk right into a little cage and push a button that takes them down to the bottom of the shelter. Like an elevator. We can retrofit older shelters too.”

Zudell can install a roll-in ramp for those who don’t need a lift. He has also has made the underground lifesavers roomier – 10X10, to make it easier to move about. Customers may still order the smaller 6X8 which were popular years ago. For commercial use, he builds 10X20 and up.

Some of his eight-year-old company’s clients have included a senior citizen center for the City of Stringtown, OK (he suggests Stringtown Mayor Chester Edge as a reference 580-239-2336).

“I did …the Stringtown Senior citizen Center with a bathroom, solar energy, and a backup generator. When I build a shelter I give them a free solar package, which includes three panels, an inverter, and two lights. The battery life lasts 198 hours.”

Other customers include the Southern Oklahoma Regional Disposal Plant in Dixon 580-223-0404 or 580-226-1276. The SORD shelter accommodates 40-50 people. Tribal builds residential shelters too, of course. He’s happy to provide other references as well as show his products to anyone interested.

Zudell advises corporations, mobile home parks, cities, and families looking for storm shelters to seek the advice of an accountant regarding tax breaks for installation of storm shelters this year and next. They may be very pleasantly surprised.

Tribal Custom Storm Shelters is vigilant about avoiding utility issues. Zudell always uses the Call Okie system to locate any underground lines before turning an inch of dirt.

“Oklahoma One-Call System, Inc. is non-profit, incorporated in the State of Oklahoma in 1979. Call OKIE is a valuable tool used in preventing damages to public services. It is a communication link between the excavators and operators of underground facilities. (Dial 811)

The shelters must keep the inhabitants comfortable, but at the same time, they must be able to take plenty of punishment to protect the souls inside.

“Our wall, our floors and our ceilings are all 8” thick with a half an inch rebar, he said. “We also use a fiberglass mesh to make it stronger. The strength of our walls and our ceilings are very important. We use a half inch of rebar, horizontally, and vertically. On the floor, eight inches of concrete is not going to leak.

“Then we put turbines – that’s what circulates air to the shelters. And we also put vents in them too on top of the shelter. All of our vents are wind tunnel tested. Each door is wind tunnel-tested.”

“Then we build what you call wing walls around the doors so when you’re entering nothing can hit you going in or coming out.”

Bad boy, industrial-strength, dead-bolt locks and four, heavy duty hinges keep the door locked down tight, rather than the flimsier locking systems found on older shelters. A nice tight seal is applied around the door to keep water out, he continued.

But customers call the shots. Zudell can build a shelter to meet the needs and preferences of any customer. He’s accustomed to flexibility.

Zudell can even install cell phone boosters

Sulpher-based, Tribal Custom Storm Shelters may be reached by calling Zudell at 580-332-8100.

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