COOKE COUNTY, Texas – October 2, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Faced with a long local history of dangerous tornadoes, Cooke County officials wanted to help residents protect themselves. They achieved that goal by offering homeowners financial incentives to build tornado shelters and safe rooms.
Established in May 2011 with the help of federal funds, the county’s Residential Safe Room Rebate Program reimburses homeowners for part of the cost of installing safe rooms and shelters on their property. The rebate covers 50 percent of the total cost, up to $3,000. To date, 365 residents have participated.
“The goals of this rebate program are to help Cooke County residents be as prepared as possible and help provide them a safe place to go in the event of a tornado,” said the county’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Ray Fletcher. “It’s not a matter of if we’ll have another tornado in Cooke County, but when.”
According to the National Climatic Data Center, Cooke County has had 53 tornadoes since 1950. The tornadoes caused $54 million in damage and injured 27 people.
Fletcher said starting a safe room initiative had been one of the first mitigation activities he wanted to see implemented during his term as the county’s emergency management coordinator.
In 2011, the county received a $750,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) to fund the start-up project. “We advised and encouraged residents to apply,” Fletcher said. “Residents were aware that not all who applied would get a grant.” It was on a first-come, first-served basis. “We’ve had a great response so far.”
To be eligible for the program, applicants were required:
To own and reside in a Cooke County property that is outside of a FEMA or local floodplain.
To cover the cost of the safe room and its installation, and submit invoices and receipts for reimbursement.
Residents in incorporated communities may be eligible if compliant with their community’s permit processes.
Fletcher also cautioned residents that the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA) or the American Tornado Shelter Association (ATSA) must certify both the safe room and its installer. The NSSA and ATSA are the only industry organizations recognized by FEMA to certify that a safe room or storm shelter meets or exceeds FEMA standards.
“I actually go out to each site following installation and take a picture of the shelter and of the seal that verifies the certification,” Fletcher said.
In May 2015, safe room owners experienced the security of the shelters as they endured a night of turbulent weather, tornadoes and floods in North Texas. At 7:30 p.m. on May 7, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Fort Worth issued a tornado warning for south central Cooke County.
NWS announced: “To repeat….a tornado is on the ground. Take cover now! Move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If you are outdoors…in a mobile home…or in a vehicle…move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.”
Residents reported they took shelter in their safe rooms during the storm that generated damaging tornadoes in Wise, Denton and Cooke counties.
“Safe room owners are satisfied with the initiative. In fact, some are willing to talk about how well-received the program is,” said Fletcher. “Last year, we had several close calls. This year, so far in 2015, four tornadoes were sighted and the safe rooms were used. We have a long waiting list and are looking forward to funding additional safe rooms.”
For additional information on Cooke County, Texas’ Safe Room Initiative, visit: https://www.fema.gov/safe-rooms.
To learn more about how cities and towns across Texas are building stronger, safer communities visit Best Practice Stories | FEMA.gov.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.