Businessweek reports that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin announced a program that could help 500 households in her state receive up to a $2,000 cash rebate for the installation of a qualified tornado shelter. Using $1 million in federal grant money, the program offers a rebate of up to 75 percent of the cost of installation of an above- or below-ground shelter. 20,000 Oklahoman’s are expected to apply, so recipients will be selected randomly on Jan. 3, although priority will be given to residents whose homes were destroyed by tornadoes earlier this year, said Oklahoma Emergency Management (OEM) Director Albert Ashwood. The shelter must meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) specifications. The OEM says an average of 800 tornadoes are reported each year in the United States, resulting in 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries, although 2011 storm death tolls were much higher. The Oklahoma House Public Safety Committee met Tuesday for a study on how to better protect residents living in manufactured and mobile homes from tornadoes. “”Manufactured housing retailers install homes properly and inspect the homes they sell, but, unfortunately, there are individuals who install their own homes and there are a number of older mobile homes out there that were never installed properly,” said Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “I think that if we can find a way to ensure that more homes are properly secured, we will see fewer deaths.” Tammy Short and Jaunita Dowling, who had a family loss in a factory-built home that was struck by an improperly anchored older mobile home, both urged lawmakers to consider mandating that “mobile home parks” provide a shelter for residents. “The park should be responsible for all of its residents. That’s why we pay our lot rent,” Dowling said. “We’re the taxpayers. We need to be protected. I don’t care how much it costs…If they don’t have facilities to accommodate all the people, shut them down.” Ownby said, “It has to be market driven…I just don’t like mandating. And there has to be some personal responsibility in this as well.” Deanna Fields, executive director of the Manufactured Housing Association of Oklahoma said, “Quite frankly, storm shelters are an amenity…I don’t know how many traditional housing subdivisions out there offer public shelters.” Fields made it clear that the Industry would resist any effort to pass a state mandate.
(Graphic credit: Wikimedia Commons)