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Hartselle Enquirer
Chris Shirley, left, and Donnie Kelley of Safe-T-Shelter bring a storm shelter to a house in the Falkville area recently. Photo by Jeronimo Nisa.

Storm shelter companies see increase in calls for installation

By Erica Smith 

For the Enquirer  

 

Now that it is tornado season in north Alabama, a local storm shelter company is seeing twice as many calls for installations, and another local company said they have seen a large influx in commercial sales. 

“February, March and April I usually get double the calls versus the rest of the year,” said Supercell Shelters Inc. sales representative Angie Eaves. “It always (increases) this time of year. I think it’s anticipation, but anytime there’s tornado watches or warnings, it seems to be an influx of calls.” 

Supercell is based in Tanner, but their shelters are manufactured in Hartselle. Eaves said people tend to wait until there has been tornadic activity before purchasing a shelter unless it is for a new home being built. She said there is typically a short waiting period for a shelter installation. 

“Most of our shelters are within two weeks,” Eaves said. “It just depends on which one they order, which could be up to 12 weeks.” 

Eaves said Supercell has above-ground safe rooms, exterior undergrounds, which are in people’s yards, and shelters under garage floors. 

“We cut a hole in the concrete in the garage and drop them in. You can park over them and do anything like that,” she said. “It doesn’t take up space. It’s good if you have limited garage space.” 

Depending on the type of shelter, they can range in size from 4-by-4 feet to 5-by-8 feet and hold five to 13 people. The prices range from $5,850 to $10,990. 

Dustin Mitchell, Safe-T-Shelter chief operating officer, said his Hartselle-based business has been steady for residential shelters, but has seen an increase in commercial shelter sales. 

“This is what we call our busy season,” he said. “It gets back on everybody’s mind as far as getting a shelter as severe weather starts ramping up. People show more interest and decide that it’s time to buy one.” 

Mitchell said he thinks the reason residential sales have been steady rather than a large increase is due to the economy. 

“We’ve been busy, but we just haven’t had the major influx that we typically see this time of year,” he said. “We saw a much bigger influx the last few years in sales this time of year than we did this year.” 

Another reason for not seeing a large influx, Mitchell said, is how the weather has been. 

“We’ve had a pretty quiet season this year so far,” he said. “Some other areas of the country have been hit, and that’s where we’ve seen a lot of interest in our commercial side.” 

Mitchell said they are about two weeks out on residential orders. 

“We actually do have some inventory, so right now it’s just booked out on what we have on the install on our schedule,” he said. “We’re building about 10 a week, so we can build about two a day right now.” 

Safe-T-Shelters only manufactures above-ground shelters. 

“That way there’s no stairs, they’re accessible by anybody, wheelchair accessible, handicap accessible,” Mitchell said. “There’s no risk of water coming down in the shelter with you.” 

Mitchell said their shelters start at a 4-by-5 foot and the largest ones are 6-by-8 feet or 5-by-10-feet. They can fit between six and 16 people. He said the most popular is the 4-by-6-foot model, which holds eight people. 

“We sell more of those,” Mitchell said. “People are putting them in their garage, carport, a newly constructed house.”  

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