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Oklahoman designs storm shelter that hides under your bed

The "Vortex Vault" is a new storm shelter that will extend to a full-sized storm shelter under your bed (Phil Cross/KOKH).

Storm season will be upon us soon enough and up until now, if you wanted a safe spot in your home your options were pretty limited. However, an Oklahoma engineer thought storm shelters could be better and his idea grew from a sketch to a potential revolution in safe spaces.

“We bought a new house a few years ago and we didn't have any [shelter] options we really liked,” Levi Wilson told FOX 25. “I didn't want to be outside; I didn't want to be in the garage some of the indoor units didn't really fit for what we needed.”

Wilson owns a machine shop and designs aircraft parts, but from his family’s conundrum an idea struck him for a different way to build a storm shelter.

“It can go in any home as long as you have a concrete foundation you can put it in your home,” Wilson explained about his newly designed “Vortex Vault.”

The shelter hides under your bed. The shelter replaces the box springs and frame and when fully collapsed it sits high enough to be a panic room. However, a push of a button raises the shelter to the height of a full-sized storm shelter.

Space-saving shelters are a relatively new concept, but they have proven effective.

Wilson kept the idea for the shelter largely to himself, until an unrelated business dealing allowed his path to cross with that of Tim Todd, a man who was already in the business of helping sell storm shelters.

“I loved it,” Todd told FOX 25 about the first time he heard Wilson explained the concept. “The biggest part about it that I loved was number one, you can bring it in in parts into a home, which in most cases if you're going to build a big safe room in your house you have to do it during construction.”

The design of the shelter not only makes it more portable and easier to fit inside any room in your home, it also helps keep the cost down. Instead of welding the quarter-inch steel plates, which is usually one of the most expensive parts of any traditional above-ground shelter, Wilson’s vault forms the metal sheets. The pieces are connected with grade five bolts.

The shelters come in any size a bed comes in and are raised and lowered on battery power. The batteries are charged via a ‘trickle’ charger. It will raise and lower several times on a battery charge, but the battery also provides power for cell phones and lights once in use.

The shelter raises on metal rods that screw into place automatically and once you get inside you can flip a switch to make sure no one outside can lower it on accident.

“The biggest panel weighs about 100 pounds and it is just the width of the panel, so just about an inch wide at the most so we can take this into any room,” Wilson explained.

Another key feature is accessibility. There are no steps for the elderly or physically impaired and the door is wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

The big question though is whether such a shelter could hold up during a storm.

The Vortex Vault team sent the shelter to Texas Tech’s debris impact simulator. It is the gold-standard of storm shelter testing and a majority of shelters fail on their first test of the air canon.

The Vortex Vault passed the first time. It took multiple hits from the canon aimed at what the Tech engineers determined would be the weakest points.

Oklahomans still had concerns though, because as they know all too well, storms can toss cars.

“About a month ago we decided we'll just go out here to one of the salvages and we dropped a four thousand pound car on it,” Todd said.

Click here to learn more about the testing the Vortex Vault went through.

The shelter passed with little more than scratches. It didn’t collapse under the weight of the car or the impact.

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