In 2011, Oklahoma announced the SoonerSafe incentive program, offering federally financed rebates of up to $2,000 to residents who install storm shelters. The state uses a lottery-style drawing to select rebate winners from among the thousands of online applications. Sherry Wells said she won this year. She and her husband decided to get the biggest shelter available— a vault-like box with wooden benches — at a cost of $4,800. The project was so freshly finished that the Wells hadn't even submitted their rebate forms when the tornado hit on Monday.
"If it wasn't for the hand of God and the cellar, we wouldn't be here," Wells said as she sorted through the rubble of her home Thursday.
A little over 3,000 residential storm shelters are registered in Moore, a city of about 56,000, said community development director Elizabeth Jones.
Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis wants to propose a city ordinance requiring all new homes to have storm shelters. But realistically, he said, city officials may be able to require them only in new assisted living facilities and apartment complexes because of cost concerns. Contractors will be part of the conversation with the City Council to see whether a broader requirement is possible, Lewis said.
"We want to be competitive," he said. "We don't want to price them out of the market."
Asked at a news conference if a similar mandate might be considered statewide, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin quickly shot down the suggestion.
"We aren't going to require people to do anything, but if someone chooses to do that, we certainly encourage it," Fallin said.
In the aftermath of a devastating tornado two years ago, the Joplin City Council in southwest Missouri considered several code and policy changes for homes but ultimately decided against a safe room requirement, City Manager Mark Rohr said.