Having a storm shelter or safe spot is the first thing to identify when making storm plans. With tornado watches and warnings such as those issued Monday, weather plans include seeking safe shelter.

One local business is changing the storm shelter industry with different types of shelters. Building steel and above-ground shelters is one of the recent innovations by Lake Martin Storm Shelters.

“The storm (shelter) industry has evolved so much,” owner Merry Hardy said. 

The steel shelters are built in Alexander City and are anchored inside residences, according to Hardy. The shelters are placed when home slabs are poured and construction crews work around them as the house is built.

“You can virtually put these shelters anywhere in the house,” Hardy said. “You don’t have to get in the weather to get to them.”

Hardy said indoor steel shelters are a new trend and the company is placing 22 of them in a housing development in Beauregard, where a tornado hit in March and killed 23 people died and injured 90.

“Of all the options you could have (for shelters), to me (the indoor steel is) my favorite option,” Hardy said. “We just started marketing them and I think it’s going to be a big success.”

Above-ground shelters, which are made of concrete with 6-inch thick walls, are becoming popular for the elderly and handicapped, according to Hardy. The smallest one Hardy sells is 23,000 pounds.

The company has installed shelters all over the state since it began in 2010. It currently is installing 100 shelters in Lee County with Federal Emergency Management Agency’s storm shelter grants. 

“You have to have a declared state of emergency in a county or in an area (for the grants),” Hardy said. “It could be a whole state (under the state of emergency); it could be several counties.”

Making a plan is the biggest thing people can do to prepare for storms, according to Hardy.  

“If you get a warning and it says, ‘Hey, there’s a tornado on the way,’ where are you going to go?” Hardy said. “What’s your plan?”

Tallapoosa County EMA director Jason Moran echoed Hardy’s advice. Moran encourages residents to sign up for weather notifications with Tallapoosa ALERT, which alerts residents with emails, texts and phone calls, and to keep a radio on hand for weather alerts. The county stopped using tornado sirens and only relies on the alert system.

“I encourage everyone to be prepared and one of the best ways to do that is to receive a notification that weather is coming,” Moran said. “Everyone needs to have a place for shelter.” 

Those without a shelter should go to the lowest level of their residence and stay in the center part of a windowless room. People who live in mobile homes should find stable structures, according to Moran.

Those who live in upstairs apartments should befriend and coordinate with their downstairs neighbors when a storm is going through.

Someone without a storm shelter should also wear clothes, shoes and helmets for protection if a tornado destroys his or her residence, according to Moran. He advises parents put children in car seats. 

Emergency plans should include collecting important items such as personal information and medication. Moran said a weather radio is similar to a smoke alarm for bad weather and usually costs $32 at stores.

Tallapoosa ALERT is free and is available for all to download at www.tallaco.com under the “Departments” tab, which lists EMA. 

Residents can also call EMA at 256-845-1075 and someone there will assist signing them up.