The State of Ohio will help pay for a safe room to protect your family from tornadoes. But they don’t exactly make it easy to get the money. Ohioans are no stranger to funnel clouds. Back in May 2019, 21 tornadoes hit Ohio in just one night. Events like this are why the Ohio Emergency Management Agency started the Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program.
The program provides a rebate of up to $4,875 to homeowners who add a tornado safe room to an existing or new home. A safe room is designed specifically for the purpose of providing protection from severe weather. The room can be located:
- In the basement
- Beneath a concrete slab foundation or garage floor
- An interior room on the first floor of your home
- A stand-alone structure near the home.
There Are Rules
Now, the rules for the Ohio Safe Room Rebate get a little more complicated:
A safe room must be sized to suit the number of possible residents. Usually considered to be two people per bedroom. The minimum safe room size is three square feet per occupant plus additional room for handicapped family members. The state gives this example, “minimum safe room size for a typical house would be as follows: 2 occupants x 3 bedrooms x 3 square feet per occupant = 18 square feet minimum. The maximum safe room size will vary with each specific safe room type.” Wherever the safe room is installed, it must be readily accessible to all occupants.”
Not everyone who applies gets the rebate. The program uses a random selection process to select recipients from the pool of eligible applicants. You must apply for the rebate before you build the room. You can’t start construction before the rebate drawing. Then, you must wait for a notification to proceed from the Ohio EMA. If you’re selected, you have 60 days to submit engineered drawings and your permits. If you miss that deadline, you lose your rebate.
Licensed Contractor Required
One other thing to note, you absolutely cannot do it yourself. You must use a licensed contractor. And here’s where it gets complicated again: The safe room must meet criteria in FEMA Publication 320 and/or FEMA Publication 361, and meet the ICC 500 Standard for the Design and construction of Storm Shelters. In addition, the Residential Building Code of Ohio requires compliance with ICC 500 and a building permit to be issued by any local certified residential building department. If there is no local certified residential building department in your jurisdiction, additional arrangements will be made to have the installation/construction of your safe room inspected by the Ohio Board of Building Standards for compliance with FEMA 320 and/or FEMA 361. This is where that licensed contractor comes in handy.
Once the safe room is completed, you’ll need to submit the following before you get the rebate:
- Signed Certificate of Installation,
- Contractor invoice,
- Proof of payment,
- Coordinates for the location of the safe room accurate to +/- 64 feet,
- A local building permit,
- A zoning permit (if required), and
- Before and after photos of the safe room construction site with sufficient background scenery to verify the safe room’s location on the property.