Program randomly selects enrolled citizens, helps them pay for storm shelters

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - While having your own storm shelter or safe room provides some peace of mind especially this time of year in Oklahoma, they can be very expensive to install. However, the State of Oklahoma is working to help some who can't afford them.

There is a state program called Sooner Safe that is essentially like a lottery for storm shelters, except it's free to enter. You apply online and your name will be added to a drawing. Names are drawn randomly throughout the year, anytime grant money is available through FEMA.  If you win, the state will then offer to pay for 75-percent of a new storm shelter or safe room in your home, up to $2,000.

The drawing is only open to homeowners who currently do not have a storm shelter. Comanche County Public Information Officer Ashleigh Hensch said she thinks it's a good idea for everyone who qualifies to sign up.

"You have nothing to lose and if you just have enough money, but not enough to build a safe room, this helps you to kind of get your foot in the door so to speak, to spur you into being able to get that safe room or storm shelter that you may not have been able to get otherwise," Hensch said.

If you win, you'll still have to pay for 25-percent of the shelter but with how expensive storm shelters can be, that 75-percent savings can be very helpful.

"It's a big cost, it's not like building a new house or anything but it's thousands of dollars to put in a safe room or storm shelter. Even if you can afford it, being able to get back some money from it would be super beneficial, especially since it's 75-percent. That's a big chunk of the cost that you're getting back," Hensch said.

Plus, in Oklahoma, Hensch said storm shelters go a long way in keeping you safe.

"It keeps you from leaving your home during a storm to go somewhere to seek shelter. We don't have any community shelters for that reason. We don't want people to be out during the storm, where they can get hit by debris, they can get in accidents. More fatalities and injuries occur when you leave your home to go to a public shelter," Hensch said.

Some southwest Oklahoman's have had some luck with the drawing. Since the program started in 2011, 482 residents of Comanche County have applied and 29 have won.

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