Hurricanes may have met their match.
A U.S.-based company, American Business Continuity Domes (ABC), has begun building disaster-resistant, steel-reinforced, thin-shelled concrete domes as shelters from hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.
Federal emergency management officials said they have appropriated $50 million in Texas alone to build a series of the shelters along the Texas coast to protect residents from hurricanes.
These domes are strong enough to withstand hurricane winds of up to 250 mph, said ABC's CEO, Peter Fedele.
"The community needs safe shelters and these safe shelters are becoming more popular with the increase of natural disasters," Fedele said. "People are flooding shelters more and more and there are not enough of them. There is a greater need and the government has started to realize this."
The average size of a dome shelter is 20,000 square feet and can accommodate 1,400-1,500 people. If stadium seating, wheelchairs and beds are needed, the dome can hold 800-1,000 people.
The dome is designed to have a rounded top to withstand high winds. Though the roof is thin, it is reinforced with steel and concrete for extra strength. The roof is also inflated through air pressure.
"If you've ever had an egg and squeezed either end, it is hard to break it, even with the shell being thin," he said. "The dome gives a natural design that allows for optimum stretch with the least amount of material."
The total cost for a completely customized dome is $2.5 million. These domes are not just shells, but rather are custom-built for schools, churches, and other communities.
"These domes are very identifiable in these communities, and are usually used for secondary functions," Fedele said. "The beauty of these storm shelters is that they can serve as gymnasiums for schools, or as community centers doubling as facilities for weddings, funerals, revival meetings, and community events. Typically they include stadium like seating."
The shell of the dome without any customization costs half as much, he said.
Over the past 25 years, ABC Domes has built more than 500 shelters in 80 countries around the world, including China, Korea, Brazil and Canada.
"We assume that we will be seeing them in every community in the country, and I think the buildings coming out are going to mandate safe shelters by law," Fedele said. "Our commitment and our model is both economical and environmentally sound. We anticipate building many more in the future."