All storm-safe rooms installed in Madison now must be compliant to FEMA standards.

The City Council received approval Tuesday from the Department of Homeland Security to move forward with an ordinance regarding safe room regulations and permit procedures.

Safe rooms are designed to resist wind pressure and wind-borne debris impacts during extreme weather events, such as tornadoes or hurricanes. They can be located within or outside a structure.

Building inspector Mark Johnson said the ordinance came about because a city resident converted a septic tank into a storm shelter. The septic tank, which had 4-inch walls, was not compliant to FEMA regulations - which mandates at least 8-inch walls.

The ordinance will not be retroactive, but safe room installers - contractors or do-it-yourself homeowners - now must register with the city of Madison and have proof of liability insurance. Johnson said several local contractors who construct safe rooms already abide by FEMA regulations and are registered with the city.

Much like other construction projects, the city will review all safe-room designs and the finished product.

"As long as they build to the standard of FEMA, they're OK," Johnson said.

To add a shelter, a basic building permit is required. The city will charge $50 for a building permit for a project totaling $2,000 or less. After that, every thousand dollars spent on the project adds $1 to the permit.

According to FEMA, the most convenient and safest location for a safe room is in a structure's basement. FEMA also recommends that local fire department and emergency management directors be given the location of the room.

Construction designs and cost analysis can be found on the FEMA website, The agency offers designs for five types of safe rooms: concrete, concrete masonry, wood-frame, lean-to and in-ground.

Residents or contractors also can visit the National Storm Shelter Association, a non-profit organization, to view approved product listings for tornado and hurricane safe rooms.