The answer, no doubt, startled them.
Some would have to wait until perhaps October. One shelter contractor said he would be busy until September of 2014. You read that right: 2014.
Robin Hood, director of strategic marking for Smart Shelters, said the phones have been ringing constantly since the May 20 tornado that devastated swaths of Moore, Newcastle and south Oklahoma City.
It was incredible. We thought it would slow, but it hasnt, he said.
Each year, Smart Shelters manufactures and installs about 3,000 shelters, which include above-ground safe rooms and underground shelters usually placed beneath garage floors.
In the last 10 days, weve probably sold about 1,500 shelters, said Hood.
To put that in perspective, Smart Shelter sold about 200 the week after a tornado struck Piedmont in May of 2011. The company sells four sizes, with prices ranging from $2,995 to $4,895.
But people who put down a $300 deposit today will have to wait until February 2014 to see it installed.
Scared out of their wits A crush of customers has also been the case for Armor Vault, according to the companys owner, Mark Webb. They slammed us the day after the May 20 tornado, and its been crazy ever since, he said.
Armor manufactures several sizes of above-ground shelters. The vaults, all-steel units, are typically installed in garages.
We tie our safe rooms down to a concrete slab using 14 anchor bolts tested to withstand 15,000 pounds of pressure, said Webb, whose father founded the business in 1966. Its way, way overkill, but when it comes to saving lives, it cant be overdone.
He said the shelters were tested by Texas Tech Universitys National Wind Institute, while the safe rooms reportedly can withstand the force of an EF5 tornado.
When the May 31 tornado hit the metro, Webb and more than a dozen employees jammed into one of the shelters and waited for the storm to pass.
People are in a panic mode. Theyre scared out of their wits, he added.
At the F5 Storm Shelters showroom, customers have been told that shelters can be purchased but installation would have to wait until October.
We cant get a break, and weve had nonstop calls since the Moore tornado. Its been in waves, said Blake Lee, a sales representative.
Some of the F5 shelters are closets made of 10-gauge steel and are connected to garage floors using 20 anchor bolts.
The smallest of the underground shelters carry a price of $2,799 fully installed, while a jumbo shelter is $4,000. F5 Storm Shelters can install two to three shelters a day.
Interstate demand Andrew Zagorski Jr. of Oz SafeRooms said the recent tornadoes have been a wake-up call for area residents.
People are still signing up. Its amazing. And now were getting calls from Texas, Kansas and Missouri.
The demand is so great that Zagorski said he has partnered with an international law firm and plans to take the company public.
Consumer interest in tornado shelters apparently was swelling even before the May 19-20 tornadoes that swept through Central Oklahoma, as evidenced by the number of shelter permits issued by Oklahoma City officials. In 2012, the city had recorded nearly 2,500 permits, according to David Adcock, the citys development center manager.
He cited figures of 1,158 permits issued from March to June 1 of this year. Since May 20, nearly 400 shelter permits have been issued.
Meanwhile, tornado-related insurance claims filed by Oklahomans since May 19 have risen to well more than 60,000. They represent insured losses of nearly $470 million.
As of last week, the state insurance commissioners office said that includes 29,072 homeowners claims, 28,056 auto claims and 1,849 commercial property claims.
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