YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ohio Emergency Management Agency is offering to give you money to install a room in your house that will keep you safe from tornadoes.

In 2020, there were 24 tornadoes in Ohio, adding up to almost $2 million in damage to homes and businesses. To protect you from this, Ohio EMA is offering their Tornado Safe Room Rebate Program to people who own homes.

“If you have a basement that is the safest place to be, but a basement is not a substitute for a tornado safe room,” said Steve Ferryman, Ohio EMA mitigation branch chief.

To fully protect yourself, a specially- constructed safe room is your best bet. They can hold up to 16 people and can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000. With the rebate program, the Ohio EMA pays for 75% of that.

Ferryman said the safe rooms can be made from steel, concrete or plastic and can be above or below ground, or a combination of both.

One key to a safe room is a door that can withstand direct impacts from flying debris, falling houses and projectiles that come with high wind events. Even though most of our tornado events in Ohio are EF0 and EF1, they still produce wind speeds from 65 to 110 miles per hour.

“Last year, we had a record number of applications for the Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program. We had over 800, and a lot of that was driven by, I think, the tornado outbreak we had on southwestern and eastern Ohio over Memorial Day weekend,” Ferryman said.

Right now, they have 150 applicants, and they will take applications through March. If you want to sign up, you can fill out the application online. About 100 applicants will be randomly chosen.

“Once the application period closes in March, we have our random computerized drawing, kind of like the Ohio Lottery but with way better chances,” Ferryman said.

It does take about a year for the rebate process, so if you apply now, you’ll likely have your safe room by March of 2022.

Mobile home owners are not eligible for the program because they don’t typically own the land where the home sits. However, there are other programs that provide money for mobile home park community shelters.

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