Problem Solver: Code-Compliant Windstorm Solutions

At about this time every year, the country braces for news of Mother Nature and the havoc she unleashes with major windstorms. At one time, only coastal states like Florida seemed to be affected. But, in recent years, the destruction has veered beyond Florida, requiring many states to seek shelter from the storm.

Consider this:

  • From 2010-2012, there were more than 3,900 tornadoes, resulting in 667 deaths in the United States.
  • Between 2010 and 2011, 31 hurricanes or tropical storms caused more than 387 deaths and $33 billion in damages.
  • Practically every state is at risk for tornadoes or hurricanes.

When it comes to windstorm solutions, it’s all code-driven. The door, lock and hardware you put on an opening are determined by hurricane or tornado codes. The challenge comes with knowing which codes apply.

Windstorm solutions can be tricky because codes can vary by state and even county. With hurricanes, for example, the old SBC (Southern Building Code) was the first code to include hurricane resistance requirements in building construction design and Miami-Dade County was the first government entity to enforce compliance to this code. However, these requirements and testing protocols to address the entire state of Florida have since been incorporated into the Florida Building Code.

Additional requirements may also apply to certain types of buildings for enhanced hurricane protection. Schools and hospitals, for example, may have additional hurricane code requirements in certain regions.

While most buildings in coastal states are subject to windstorm codes for hurricane protection, it’s a different story for locations in the tornado region. The current national codes are not specific about which facilities are required to have storm shelters.

Changes, though, have been approved for the 2015 edition of the International Building Code that will require storm shelters in educational occupancies and emergency operations facilities in certain parts of the country. The new requirements will be adopted on a state-by-state basis so it’s important to check what your state requires. Regardless of whether your state adopts them, compliance with the new requirements reflects best practices nationwide.


Building Types

In hurricane regions, many types of buildings are required to have windstorm solutions, including (but not limited to) schools, healthcare facilities, commercial buildings, retail locations and community storm shelters. In tornado regions, typically schools and community shelters are subject to windstorm shelter requirements. Shelters, however, may be built in a variety of buildings.


Types of application

The type of application may also drive the final solution. Like any other door solution, windstorm solutions have unique requirements based on the application. What is done for an exterior door may be different than a door for a classroom wing or gymnasium used as a shelter. What you need may vary by building or even door by door.

Openings equipped with windstorm solutions can still have access control. However, because of the unique windstorm assembly, there are special considerations. Because an electric strike can’t be used on these openings, locksmiths should consider an electronic lock. Electrifying a panic device is another way to add access control to an opening.

Make sure the products you use are performance tested. When in doubt, check with your manufacturer’s specification consultant.

  • Hurricane: Tested to resist windborne debris impact loads, and cyclic and static wind pressures, as prescribed by the Florida Building Code.
  • Tornado: Tested to the most stringent FEMA 361/FEMA 320/ICC 500 requirements, withstanding 250 mph sustained winds and 15-lb projectile impacts at 100 mph.


Minu Youngkin is Allegion’s Integrator Marketing Manager