Local man starts business building custom storm shelters

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A local man is on a mission to help families protect themselves from storms.

When it comes to storm safety, Matt Cobb said he’s found the key. He’s a life-long Kansan, so he’s no stranger to storms.

However, during a birthday party for his daughter a few years ago a funnel cloud started to form and he realized his family wasn’t prepared.

“I decided that I needed to take responsibility for my family’s safety. I actually set out to buy a tornado shelter for my house,” Cobb said. “When I started seeing what was on the market I was disappointed and frustrated.”

That’s when Cobb decided to build his own. He did lots of research to figure out the best materials and to see what guildelines FEMA has for storm shelters.

“I wanted to go way beyond those guidelines, because the idea was I’m not trying to stop one 2 x 4 from hitting the shelter. I’m trying to protect my family if a vehicle is picked up and tossed at it,” Cobb said.

Then he decided to do the same for other families, by starting South Wind Shelters. He did some redesigning and even went to Texas to do tests and get professional storm certification.

With storm season just around the corner Dusty Nichols with Shawnee County Emergency Management says it’s never too early to start preparing.

“Having the plan and testing it is always key so that when something does happen it’s more of a muscle memory than an oh my god what do we do,” Nichols said.

Cobb says he wants to help families do just that.

“Not all storm shelters are created equally even if they pass FEMA guidelines,” Cobb said. “The value of a storm shelter is hard to wrap your head around. For the price of a bathroom remodel or having a deck built on your house, you could actually have something that would keep your family safe.”

Nichols said a misconception that when a storm hits there are open public shelters you can go to. He says that’s not the case and you do need to have a secure place of your own that you can go.

You can find out about getting a custom shelter from South Wind Shelters here.

Shawnee County is also helping people prepare for the season with a storm spotter talk. You can find the details below:

When: Mon, March 2, 3pm – 5pm and 7pm – 9pm.

Where: Bradbury Thompson Center Washburn University 1700 SW Jewell Ave, Topeka, KS 66621 (map)

Description: There will be 2 shows. The first at 3 pm and the second at 7 pm. To be held in convocation hall in the Bradbury Thompson Center Washburn University. The Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center is off 17th and Jewell, across the street from White Concert Hall and Mulvane Art Museum.

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