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December 7, 2012

County officials speak on tornadoes

GRADY COUNTY — Tornado season may be months away, but the starting gun has fired for safe room awardees to start building their shelters.

A safe room awardees meeting was held on Dec. 6 at the Grady County Fairgrounds in the Community Room. Dale Thompson, Grady County Emergency Management Director, Paulette Nicholas, Grady County Emergency Management Deputy and Melinda Moore, State Emergency Management, were there to answer questions.

Original documents will be needed during inspection, but, safety first, Thompson advised awardees to make a copy of everything.

Awardees have 90 days to contact a vendor and 9 months to have the safe room built, Thompson said. In the event of illness or other events that prevent the awardee from having the safe room completed, Thompson urged the awardees to contact the Grady County Emergency Management office at 405.222.2339. These circumstances will be examined on a case by case basis.

Some requirements for the shelters are:

•    The shelter must be built within 100 feet of the property's foundation.

•    The shelter must be built on the property that is on the application.

•    The property must be owned by the applicant.

•    The property must be the applicant's primary residence.

As far as finding a vendor to build the shelter, applicants are encouraged to do their research, Thompson said. FEMA does not approve safe rooms or shelters, Thompson said, though some vendors may advertise their shelters as "FEMA approved."

Moore said that in many cases, vendors use this phrasing to indicate that their shelters follow FEMA 320361 standards.

"The key word," Thompson said, "is current." That is, awardees should check to make sure that the vendor is following current FEMA 320361 standards.

The standards have changed since the 1999, May 3 tornado, Moore said. Some of the shelters that met the requirements at the time did not weather the tornado. Shelter doors were ripped off.

References to vendors were included in the packet, but Thompson emphasized that these were not recommendations. They were included to give awardees somewhere to start.

When deciding whether to have an underground or above-ground shelter built, Thompson said that awardees should consider their health now, and where it might be in a few years. An above ground shelter may be easier to get into for those with health issues or issues with their knees, he said.

Some awardees, such as those living in Chickasha or Tuttle, will need to get a building permit before they can have the shelter built, Thompson said.

All inspections of safe rooms will be done on Fridays. For the inspection, awardees will need all receipts, building permit if applicable, two full color pictures, one of the shelter, the other of the property.

The rebate is 75 percent of the cost of the shelter, up to $2,000.

When the rebate is processed, the awardee will receive a call from the Grady County Clerk.

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