Years ago, the basement was the best place to go when tornadoes or bad weather struck.

However, with items being added to the basement and the extra weight and items upstairs, that’s no longer the case said Mike Smith of Great American Storm Shelter.

Smith’s company, based in Birmingham, Ala., builds storm shelters in the ground inside of a homeowner’s garage.

“We’ll go in the garage, lay it out, cut the concrete and dig the hole, put the shelter in and put the concrete around it. Then we’re gone and on to the next job,” Smith said.

A typical job will take about four to five hours, with the concrete around the shelter taking a few days to harden.

The sizes range from a small shelter, which costs $5,000, to an extra large shelter for $6,000. They include benches to sit on while the storm happens, and storage for an emergency preparedness kit.

Smith recommended keeping a weather radio, glow sticks, water, canned food and clothes in the shelter.

“It’s just a small amount of money you pay to use a storm shelter and be safe versus getting in a basement,” Smith said.

Business picked up for Great American Storm Shelter after April 27, 2011, when tornadoes devastated parts of Alabama.

“At that time, we went from selling 20 a week to 100 a day,” he said.

Since the Nov. 17, 2013, tornado that struck Tazewell County and the tornado that affected Joplin, Mo., last year, Smith said there has been a lot of interest in the storm shelters in both states as well.

In the months following the tornado, he has spoken to more than 100 residents interested in the shelter. His first build in the area was April 10 in Morton.

Jerry Voelker had the install done after seeing the damage that was done to Washington.

“A lot of those homes were wiped off the face of the earth,” Voelker said. “This is a concrete slab. There’s no crawl space or basement. I felt like I needed to get underground, which is why I went with an in-garage, underground shelter.”

Voelker invites anyone interested in the shelters to come check out his shelter, located at 329 N. Illinois in Morton.

He said the install went well, and added that the crew was great to work with.

Smith said the shelters have very little upkeep needed, just the occasional touching up of the paint as vehicles drive over it.

“We have a lifetime warranty on our shelters,” he said.