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Oklahoma Leads in Storm Shelter Mitigation

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Oklahoma is a national leader in safe rooms and has supported the construction of more than 11,000 residential safe rooms and 85 school safe rooms using federal grants, reports NRMCA Vice President, Sustainability, Codes and Standards, Tien Peng. Oklahoma has a creative initiative called the SoonerSafe Safe Room Rebate Program, which today serves as a model for supporting the construction of safe rooms through state and federal funding.  

Following the May 3, 1999 tornado, Oklahoma initiated the first safe room rebate program in the nation. The state and FEMA plan continued this innovative partnership following a 2003 tornado and the recent tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma. The program is unique as it provides annual grants as opposed to only after a disaster. Because of the rebate program, the Oklahoma State Constitution allowed for tax exemptions for the construction of safe rooms up to 100 square feet that were installed after January 1, 2002. In addition to the state rebate program, Oklahoma and FEMA have worked with counties and municipalities in their efforts to provide additional localized funding match for safe rooms.

Build with Strength, a coalition of NRMCA that promotes concrete building systems through communications, project promotion, education and advocacy, can help leverage sustainable standards to help place more concrete. To learn more about these programs, or for more information on how local resilience policies can help you, contact Tien Peng at or 206-913-8535.

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