You probably have seen shipping containers being used for everything from pop-up shops to on-site offices. But did you know shipping containers can be used as storm bunkers? It’s true. Over the years, the shipping container industry has become a big part of disaster management because these units are strong and built to last. They’re not only durable but they’re portable as well, which makes them perfect candidates for storm shelters in areas of the country prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tropical storms and tornadoes.
Steel shipping containers are manufactured to withstand rain, wind, snow, and ice, with the ability to endure up to 150 MPH winds. Traditional storm shelters are located underground but there is a trend moving toward above-ground storm shelters crafted out of storage containers. They’re an affordable solution to an otherwise expensive and labor-intensive alternative. Here are the pros and cons to each.
Challenges With Underground Shipping Container Bunkers
While an ingenious, convenient and affordable solution, converting a shipping container into an underground storm bunker isn’t as easy as you may think. Yes, such containers are stackable, but they are designed to bear weight on corner posts — they are not meant to support extreme pressure from all sides. You’ll have to do research to find out if an above-ground or underground shipping container shelter would be best for your needs and region.
Underground shipping containers can handle the elements very well and are the safest place to be in any storm, especially a tornado. But you can’t just bury a couple of stacked shipping containers and expect them not to buckle under the pressure. A container’s strength lies in its solid steel framing, rather than its corrugated-steel side walls. Before putting a container in the ground, it has to be reinforced on the interior and exterior so it doesn’t suddenly collapse or cave-in over time.
When burying a cargo container, you also need plenty of ventilation. You don’t want moisture to build up either. Placing silica bead pouches in the corners can help to retain some of that moisture. If you let moisture go, it can breed mold, which poses a health threat to humans.
Shipping containers made of Corten steel, AKA “weathering” steel, are comprised of rust-resistant steel alloys combined with rust-resistant paint. This combination helps your container better resist harsh weather. You’ll have to make sure the doors of your unit are sealed properly and are wind and watertight (WWT). This makes sense, since storms often bring with them torrential rains. You don’t want that to seep into your underground shelter.
While underground shipping container storm bunkers are certainly a good option, they take more maintenance and reinforcement efforts to ensure they perform safely and efficiently.
What About Above-Ground Shipping Containers?
While underground storm shelters are more common and popular, above-ground steel shipping containers converted to storm shelters may be a better option. These come with no moisture build-up issues, plus they don’t need as much care and maintenance. You don’t need stairs with an above ground shelter, either, making for easier entry and exit by occupants.
When transforming a shipping container into a storm shelter, you’ll have to properly secure the unit to the ground around it. Most steel shipping containers include areas that can be used as tie-downs. You could install anchors in concrete, using a steel cable to secure the container so it remains stable even in the nastiest of storms.
As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to both underground and above ground containers for use as storm bunkers. Regardless of which one you go with, you can’t neglect the planning and research phases to ensure a functional and above all safe storm shelter.
While most shipping container providers don’t actually construct the storm shelters for you, you can purchase the container from them and take it to a contractor specializing in this type of project.
Again, you’ll need to do your research so you’re choosing a professional that has a reputable track record of efficiency and safety.
Contact Transocean Equipment Management
If you would like a quote on a shipping container to use as a storm bunker for your commercial or residential property, contact us at 910-483-7828. We would be happy to give you an estimate on the exact type of container you need, no matter what its purpose.