FEMA Tornado Shelter Funding Heading to North Texas

$1.395 million approved to help subsidize storm shelters for some residents in Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant counties

Starting the first week of June, some residents of Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant counties will be eligible for federal funds to help install tornado shelters in at their homes.

This $1.395 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant comes at a good time for North Texans, who watched tornadoes ravage through Granbury and Cleburne last week and Moore, Oklahoma earlier this week.

“I think this is going to give us a better sense of security when we do have these terrible storms and these terrible winds coming through,” said Molly Thoerner, North Central Texas Council of Government’s Emergency Preparedness Director.

NBC 5 Investigates first reported more than a year ago that the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the biggest metropolitan area in Tornado Alley, only received a fraction of the millions of federal dollars doled out for tornado shelters. Time-consuming paperwork was the roadblock for counties to get the grant money from FEMA. But some of the hurdles have been cleared.

Thoerner told NBC 5 over the past year, much of the paperwork has been completed, and FEMA grant money will soon be available to area homeowners in the form of rebates for safe rooms, which can cost thousands of dollars.

“We can’t wait to get our project started,” Thoerner said. “We’re really ready to move it to the next step.”

A homeowner or developer can be reimbursed for half the cost of an individual safe room in an existing or planned home up to $3,000. But these rooms must be from a vendor approved by the National Storm Shelter Association or the American Tornado Shelter Association to qualify for reimbursement. The rooms can be in the ground, above ground, indoors or outdoors.

There are other restrictions too. The rebate money will only be available in jurisdictions within the four counties that have FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation action plans. Properties in floodplains do not qualify. Homes more than 45-years-old need special review to determine eligibility. And pre-existing shelters do not qualify for the program.

“This go-round, we’re really targeting single-family residences,” Thoerner said.

Thoerner said the agency is in the final phases of getting a website up and running for residents to begin the application process.

“We think probably as this weather season continues there will be increased demand,” Thoerner said.

Applications will be taken on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the reimbursement process may take two months. But residents should act fast. Thoerner expected funds to run out within the first six months. However she said, as North Texans apply for the rebates, NCTCOG will continue to apply for federal dollars for shelters.

More information can be found at http://nctsaferoom.com/

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