State officials say the reason for the pattern is either that people in some areas were lucky or more residents from those areas applied.
Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said rebate recipients are chosen randomly by a computer program designed by the state. When winners withdraw, alternate names are drawn.
Asked why some cities won disproportionate shares, Cain stressed that the process is random, adding, “It depends on how many people from each community applied.”
The SoonerSafe Safe Room Rebate Program began in 2011 and lotteries were conducted in January 2012 and January 2013. The program’s $2.4 million funding allows for more than 1,000 rebates. The program is separate from most of the direct aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided to people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in major tornadoes. SoonerSafe also is separate from federally funded rebate programs sponsored by individual counties or cities.
The Department of Emergency Management initially promoted the SoonerSafe program through news conferences, press releases and social media. About 15,000 people applied the first year. The marketing since has lessened because of the number of applicants, Cain said. “More than 22,000 people are already registered and we only do about 500 (rebates) per year,” Cain said.
Casey Moore, marketing and public relations manager for the city of Edmond, said one factor in the city’s large share of awardees could be that it experiences more housing construction on average than other communities.
Eric Stewart, 43, of Edmond, was among the winners in the 2012 drawing. He said he heard about SoonerSafe rebates while watching a television news report. He immediately applied online.
“My wife … asked me what I was doing and I told her. She said I’d never get it and not to bother,” Stewart said. He submitted the application anyway, and found out in February 2012 that he’d been selected.