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COLUMBUS — The Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program is once again offering rebates to help Ohio homeowners construct/install tornado safe rooms on their properties.

A safe room is a structure specifically designed to provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events and can be installed in the basement, beneath a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor, or in an interior room on the first floor. A safe room may also be buried in the yard or be a stand-alone structure near the home.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency’s rebate program provides a rebate of up to $4,875 to homeowners selected to participate in the program.

In 2019, the National Weather Service confirmed 21 tornadoes struck Ohio during the late night/early morning of May 27-28. The tornadoes killed two people and caused an estimated $1 billion in damages, proving to be the most destructive natural disaster in Ohio history.

Following this series of tornadoes, more than 800 Ohio homeowners applied to be part of the Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program in 2020. Driving the record-number of applications for the program was west central Ohio, with about half of the applicants from Montgomery and surrounding counties.

“The 2019 Memorial Day Tornado Outbreak included one EF4 tornado, three EF3 tornadoes, and four EF2s, with the EF4 producing winds up to 170 miles per hour,” said Ohio EMA Director Sima Merick. “A tornado safe room is built to withstand wind speeds up to 250 mph, or an EF5 tornado, and can provide occupants near-absolute protection from damaging winds and airborne debris.”

Funding for the rebate program is through a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grant programs. Safe rooms must meet FEMA requirements in FEMA publications 320 and 361 and cannot be constructed/installed prior to the rebate drawing and notification to proceed with construction from Ohio EMA. Ohio EMA offers this rebate program annually when HMA funding is available. The amount of HMA funding determines the number of rebates available for safe room construction or installation.

The Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program uses a computerized random selection process to select applicants. A priority list of applicants will be created from the selected applicants. Ohio homeowners have until 5 p.m. March 5, 2021 to apply. Chosen homeowners will be notified by e-mail of their position on the priority list on or after March 12. Ohio EMA anticipates grant funding to become available this year and will develop a list of participants who meet program requirements and will expedite the rebate process.

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