Previous studies and field surveys showed that specific structural designs can decrease the load on free-standing buildings along the coast, providing safer vertical shelters. This experimental study investigated the effect of openings in buildings (windows, doors and foyers) on horizontal forces and tilting moments induced by both dry bed surges and wet bed bores. Four configurations with seven porosity values ranging from 0% (impervious) to 84% (highly permeable) were systematically tested. Due to the presence of openings, the flow through the building reduced the upstream water depths. The porosity resulting from the presence of openings was shown to produce a linear reduction of the maximum horizontal force, when compared to the corresponding impervious building. The configuration with an impervious back showed results similar to those measured for the fully impervious buildings. The occurrence of the maximum tilting moment was shown to coincide with the maximum horizontal force and an estimation of the cantilever arm was therefore possible. The latter was constant for all configurations, independent of the geometry of the openings. Finally, two equations to predict the maximum horizontal force and the tilting moment were proposed, taking into account the effect of building openings within the resistance coefficient. These showed good agreement with experimental data and previous studies. These findings provide engineers with practical information for the design of safer vertical shelters in tsunamiprone areas.