IDHS will help people cover the costs of building a tornado safe | News Sun

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INDIANAPOLIS — If you’re looking to build a tornado-safe room in your home, you’ll now be able to get state assistance to help cover some of the cost.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is offering residents who build a FEMA-approved tornado safe chamber the opportunity to be reimbursed for up to 75% of what they paid to build their shelters.

People have until April 15 to apply for the rebate program. Reimbursements are capped at $5,000 and residents must cover the remaining 25% of construction costs.

Mary Moran, director of IDHS’ emergency management and preparedness division, said the typical cost of building a secure room can be as high as $7,000.

She said the idea to start the program was after the state encountered a major tornado in 2005 in Evansville that left 20 people dead and 200 injured.

“We’ve had tornadoes across the state that resulted in significant fatalities,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of work going on to get safe rooms built in people’s homes.”

The agency is currently in its second round of refunds, with the deadline looming next week.

She said this year her agency has approximately $119,000 to distribute to residents building a safe room and 23 families have received funding from the program to do so.

Residents are allowed to choose the type of safe they wish to build. In order to get approved for funds, IDHS must inspect security rooms to determine if they meet Federal Emergency Management Agency criteria, which include doorway requirements and wind resistance.

The agency has also contacted Indiana schools to build shelters inside school buildings in case a tornado hits nearby.

She believes the grant program is one of the best mitigation programs IDHS has done and has helped fill an important need in the state.

“Since 1950, we’ve had 226 tornado fatalities and encounter 22 tornadoes a year in Indiana,” she said. “Indiana is in the high wind category for tornadoes.”

Northeast Indiana has not encountered major tornadoes in the past decade. Albion experienced an EF1 tornado in March 2016, characterized as weak with winds between 70 and 110 mph, causing only light to moderate damage. Albion suffered no material damage.

LaGrange County experienced an EF1 in July 2014 that was about 50 yards wide and caused no damage.

To prepare for a tornado, make sure you have a weather alert radio to stay informed of any updates. Make sure you have battery-operated flashlights, a supply of water, food and a first aid kit.

Also, make sure you have a plan ahead of time for where to hide and stay safe.

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