The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a government entity built for providing assistance in times of tornadoes, hurricanes, and other disasters, like wildfires. They have a branch in every county known as the Emergency Management Agency (EMA). The local EMAs can help residents obtain funding in case of adversities. They work in conjunction with the federal office in community rebuilding and assistance.
Say, you live somewhere that is regularly visited by storms. How will you protect yourself when a storm hits again? Should you wait for disaster to strike before thinking of safety? Wouldn’t it be better to have a safe room built in your home? Would ensuring near to absolute protection for you and your loved ones not be the smarter thing to do? Do you need a safe room? How safe is a safe room?
For answers, let’s look at the purpose of safe rooms for starters:
A safe room provides near to absolute protection from injury or death resulting from extreme winds during hurricanes and tornadoes. As long as the safe room is built along the guidelines given by FEMA, the occupants of a safe room can survive such storms in complete safety. Besides that, having a safe room in your home will also provide you with peace of mind. Otherwise, anxiety in the face of an impending storm can also cause discomfort.
Additionally, wind-borne debris can start flying around during a hurricane or a tornado. It can increase the danger during a storm. A safe room has reinforced walls that would considerably reduce the chances of getting hurt.
FEMA-approved safe rooms
It is true that FEMA is extremely helpful in the construction of residential safe rooms. However, they do not approve or endorse any products like tornado safe rooms. Beware of any storm shelter companies that are claiming otherwise. The best you may expect is for a storm shelter company to say that it is FEMA Compliant. For all your family members’ safety, it is best to entrust only such a company because they would follow FEMA guidelines.
A custom safe room
According to the guidelines present in the FEMA P-320 document, you can have a hardened structure built that is specifically designed to keep you safe from extreme wind events. Additionally, codes issued by all applicable Federal, State, and local authorities must be followed for optimal protection. Another thing you should keep in mind when constructing a safe room is that there are different requirements for protection from tornadoes and hurricanes. Depending on the area you live in, one or the other could be more suitable for you.
Based on your residence and the size of your family, you might need to invest in Custom Safe Rooms. For instance, a safe room doesn’t necessarily have to be located within your home. It can also be built outside, especially if you are buying a new house. Apart from that, it is possible in most cases to modify an existing home and add a safe room to it.
The FEMA P-320 document shows various safe room designs that you can discuss with your local safe room design professional. Since they are likely a part of your community, they would be familiar with the styles of houses built there. Ask them if they have worked on a home like yours, and the kind of features they included in the safe room they built there.
FEMA-assistance for storm shelters
Individual homeowners cannot apply directly to FEMA to get funding for their safe rooms. Instead, they will have to contact their State Hazard Mitigation Officer or State Emergency Manager. In states that fund local governments to reduce the risk of damage during storms, Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) funding is available via FEMA.
Depending on your requirements and eligibility criteria, you can choose from the various types of funding available:
- FHA Mortgage Insured Financing
Go here to find out more details about this kind of funding.
- Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Funds (HMGP)
You can avail an HMGP grant to fund your safe room. The acquisition or retrofitting of structures in hazard-prone areas are eligible for this type of funding. Check out this page to discover more.
- Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program Funds (PDM)
PDM funds are more suited to communities that have a hazard mitigation plan, which has already been approved. If you happen to live in a zone that sees repetitive property loss due to flooding, this is the fund you should apply for. Besides this, safe rooms and similar projects can receive funding via PDM as well.
Safe rooms – are they for you?
After going through this information, you might have begun wondering whether you should consider building a safe room or not. The forecast for hurricane season this year had this to say. It suggests that providing protection for your family and for yourself would be a smart decision.
We think whether you are an interested homeowner looking to learn more about residential safe rooms or seeking to have one built, you should have all the pertinent information. Visit your local EMA office and address your questions to them. Any assistance regarding funding for safe rooms, emergency supplies, etc., will be available there. Your emergency management agency officer is the best bet to create a viable safety plan!