State program helps cut the cost of storm safe rooms

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Every year the Buckeye State sees its share of severe weather. It can strike at any time, but the late spring and early summer months are when severe weather is most common. Whenever it hits and you tune into the Doppler 10 Weather Team, you'll hear them telling you to get to a safe spot. But what if you don't have one?

That's where the Ohio Emergency Management Agency steps in. It offers something called the "Storm Safe Room Rebate Program" which will cover 75% of the cost, up to $4875, of a safe room for your primary residence.

With the average cost of a safe room topping $7000 the program helps make covering it a little easier. "It's the folks who don't have anywhere to go are taking advantage of the program. They have maybe a basement but they're not too sure or they're scared of tornadoes or wind events. They have that safe room that provides that near absolute protection that you can get." says Ohio EMA worker Dan Clevidence.

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Chris Smith lives in Powell and he installed his shelter a shelter a few years ago. He applied for the program twice before finally being selected the third time in 2014. Growing up in Cleveland he's no stranger to severe weather. He had his safe room installed in his garage. "I actually was thinking about using an external unit. But I wanted to have the ability to get from the house to get to the actual unit and I didn't really feel comfortable as much going outside then getting into the unit," says Smith.

Typically, the Ohio EMA gets about 400-450 applications per year and roughly 100 get selected for funding. Money for it comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant Program. The way it works is that homeowners get selected, attend a meeting and have the safe room installed. They pay for it up front and then get reimbursed once they submit the paperwork. Smith says the process "worked beautifully" when he went through it. "Once I got the occupancy for the finished product I got my check and my money within 60 days. I was really surprised at how fast the process really was. Because sometimes we're a little concerned when it comes with being reimbursed but I had no problems whatsoever."

In order to qualify a shelter needs to be "FEMA compliant" but the state will help Ohioans find vendors who offer those, "They are rated for 250 mile-an-hour winds and a debris impact for a 15 pound 2x4 hitting it at 100 miles-per-hour" says Clevidence. The program is expected to open again in January and take applications through mid to late March. Click here for more information on the program.