MOORE — U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, recently introduced legislation that would help families use disaster loans to build tornado safe rooms.
The Tornado Family Safety Act —House Resolution 2908/Senate 1440 — allows Small Business Administration disaster home mitigation loans to go toward the construction of safe rooms.
Under current law, in an effort to decrease future disaster risk, SBA can increase the size of a home disaster loan by 20 percent of the total damage for mitigation activities as disaster victims rebuild their homes.
Following this year’s May 20 tornado in Moore, Mayor Glenn Lewis proposed a requirement that all homes rebuilt include a safe room, but many people may have trouble affording the extra cost.
“We have seen far too many times the devastation that tornadoes can cause to families,” Landrieu said.
“The best way to withstand these disasters is to be prepared before they happen. That is why I want to thank my colleague, Rep. Tom Cole, for his partnership in this effort, as his district has seen firsthand how destructive these tornadoes can be to homes and businesses.
“Allowing impacted families to use these SBA mitigation loans for tornado safe rooms is a common-sense way to keep families safe in the path of future tornadoes and other possible dangers.”
Under guidelines from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the International Code Council, a safe room should withstand 250 mph winds and the impact of a 15-pound plank hitting a wall at 100 mph, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
Safe rooms designed to the FEMA and ICC standards are recommended for both tornadoes and hurricanes. For individual homes, a safe room could range anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000
“I am pleased to introduce the House version of the Tornado Family Safety Act with my colleague, Sen. Mary Landrieu,” Cole said. “As we’ve seen in years past and most recently in May, tornadoes can cause unbelievable destruction to entire neighborhoods and shake communities. No one could expect the monstrous storm that tore through my hometown on May 20, but as we rebuild, it makes sense to construct homes that are prepared to face future disasters.
“This legislation will enable tornado victims to use SBA mitigation loans to construct safe rooms as they rebuild the homes they lost. As Oklahomans, we have learned to anticipate these disasters each year, and while we can never truly know what each year will bring, this legislation may help ease the minds of those who have suffered unbelievable losses in the past.”
Examples of current SBA mitigation activities include retaining walls, sea walls, grading and contouring land, relocating utilities and modifying structures.
The bill would add safe rooms as an eligible mitigation activity so homeowners would have access to low-interest loans. It does not replace or duplicate other federal programs that may provide for safe rooms.
The bill would allow a backstop to impacted families in the event that other federal funds are not available for tornado safe rooms after disasters.