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How this bed could save your life in the midst of a tornado outbreak

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
May 15, 2019, 2:36:55 PM EDT

The bed. It's a staple piece of furniture in homes across America that provides a sanctuary for rest. But what else could a bed do? Save your life? At a glance, it might not seem like there's much more to it than a mattress and a frame.

However, the entrepreneurs at a company based in the heart of Tornado Alley envisioned a way for a bed to provide shelter when nature unleashes its most extreme and violent weather. The bed seen in the photo below, with the push of a button, transforms itself into a safe room and is spacious enough for wheelchair and scooter users to roll into the shelter and take cover during a tornado.

The company, Life Lift Systems, which is based in Oklahoma City, has received recognition for its innovation, an ordinary-looking bed that morphs into a steel fortress that can protect against the destructive forces of powerful tornadoes.

If the power goes out, the beds are on battery backup and still functional. The bed takes 60 seconds to rise; however, in the event of a quick emergency there is enough space under the bed to quickly access if needed. There is no chance of the bed flying away in a tornado because it is mounted to the concrete slab in a home via FEMA guidelines.

(Life Lift Systems)

When the Vortex Vault is in the down position, the shelter functions as a standard bed. Standard headboards and footboards can be installed on the bed.

(Life Lift Systems)

Storm shelter bed in down position. Doors still open up for access and to securely store valuables.

(Life Lift Systems)

With a push of a button, the Vortex Vault bed raises to a 57-inch height allowing for individuals to enter the shelter. The shelter has been approved by the Texas Tech Wind Institute to withstand winds of an EF5 tornado.

(Life Lift Systems via Eric McCandless/ABC)

The Life Lift Systems innovative storm shelter bed can fit multiple people inside during a severe storm right in the comfort of their own home.

The inventor, Levi Wilson, came up with the idea while he was looking for a safe room to put in his new home in Oklahoma. He looked at all of the options from fully welded and underground, to in the garage or in the backyard, and he wasn’t really happy with those versions.

Life Lift Systems co-owner Tim Todd operated a marketing company that sold storm shelters, so Wilson knew Todd would be the perfect partner with whom to go into business. Wilson drew a quick sketch and Todd was sold on the idea immediately.

"I’d say within a few months we had a prototype and had it tested at Texas Tech as well as our own testing on it, then we started the business together," Todd told AccuWeather in an interview.

The concept and design that resulted was so unique that it landed on ABC's reality show "Shark Tank" earlier this year.

"We filled out an application and did a one-minute interview and they said it could take up to three months before you're contacted, and two days later, they called and said we are really interested in your product," Todd recalled.

After some haggling in the tank, billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban bought 25 percent of their Life Lift Systems company for $550,000.

“It went viral in about 25 states overnight so what we have done since then is putting distributors in place then helping distributors put dealers in place. Since it aired on Jan. 27, 2019, I’m probably on the phone 10 to 12 hours a day every day," Todd said.

And, the folks behind it realized, the shelter does not only protect against threats posed by severe weather.

It locks from the inside as well as the outside, so it can also double as a safe for valuables. If an intruder enters the home, one can quickly go “get under your bed” and lock the shelter door, without having to raise the bed.

"There are 1.4 million home invasions in the United States annually and growing rapidly," Todd said.

"This thing is rock solid, and it's bullet resistant," Todd said.

The shelter does not work in floodwaters and it isn't fireproof.

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Todd and Wilson said they were looking for dealers and installers on the show, and they have had a constant flow of phone calls ever since.

So far, their tornado beds have sold most heavily in Oklahoma because that is where they are headquartered. However, since the show aired in late January they've had inquiries from 25 states.

"The states that are going to be the biggest, I think, are Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas," Todd said. "And I'm really surprised at the number of leads we're getting from Florida."

Since their shelter is so new to the market, it has not gone through an actual tornado yet and Todd said he hopes no one ever has to.

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