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June 14th, 2021

safe roomAn example of an outdoor safe room for weather emergencies. It was recently announced the State of Kansas, through the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, has initiated the Sunflower State Residential Safe Room Program, which provides a rebate for the purchase and installation of a residential safe room for Kansas homeowners. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


With warmer temperatures comes more chances for severe weather, and for those planning on building a safe room at home in the event of a severe weather emergency, the State of Kansas, through the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, has initiated the Sunflower Safe Residential Safe Room Program. 

The program is meant to provide a rebate for the purchase and installation of a residential safe room for Kansas homeowners.

“A couple years ago, I had heard about a program in another state similar to this one we're doing, and with Kansas being right in tornado alley and the hot spot for some other weather like that, I started thinking about how beneficial it would be to Kansans right here at home,” State Hazard Mitigation Officer Jeanne Bunting said. “Kansas is ranked 3rd at 4.4 tornadoes per 100 square miles behind only Oklahoma and Florida and in fact, the 63-year average from 1950 through 2012 for Kansas was 61, the 30-year average from 1983 through 2012 was 80, and the 10-year average from 2003 through 2012 was 112 tornadoes.”

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Putting the program together for Kansas, Bunting said, did not take very long to do. 

“I started putting everything together almost right away back in 2019 after I’d heard about it,” Bunting said. “I'd talked to my boss, and then it was taken to some other people in Emergency Management, and that was really all it took for it to get going. We did plenty of research in order to justify making this available, and we actually have one of the higher rebate rates now compared to other states, which was really important to me because there are so many residents on a lower budget, so we wanted to be able to help them.”

Bunting then went into more detail about how the program works. 

“The program is designed to provide a rebate for the purchase and installation of a residential safe room for Kansas homeowners. Kansans may earn a rebate up to $3,500 per home or 75 percent of the safe room cost, whichever is less,” Bunting explained. “Kansas is offering this rebate program through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, contingent upon funding, and must comply with all federal grant regulations, including eligibility of properties and other required documentation. The Sunflower Safe rebate program is currently taking applications for homeowners that reside in Kansas, and the deadline for application is June 19. To be eligible, the safe room must be installed at a primary residence, and the residence cannot be an apartment complex, duplex, or other multifamily residence. Mobile homes are eligible if you own the home and the land it is located on. Previously installed safe rooms or safe rooms in the process of being built are not eligible, and retrofitting or repairing an existing storm shelter to meet FEMA specifications does not qualify. Homes in the floodplain with flood insurance are eligible for an above-ground safe room. The safe room must be installed in Kansas, and the homeowner may not build or install the safe room themselves. Additional information on program eligibility is available in the program's handbook, which is available at Eligible applicants are randomly selected as funding becomes available and eligibility does not guarantee funding.”

With summer approaching, Bunting said now is a good time for people to think about safe room projects. 

“Our main goal is safety hazard mitigation, and by definition, that means any sustainable effort to eliminate the risk to people and property due to natural hazards,” Bunting said. “Natural disasters happen all year, everywhere, but summer is particularly prime for that in our state, so now is a good time to think about getting all of that set up. There are so many people who live in areas where there is no community shelter, or they don't have a basement to go to. It's just a really good program. And it's not necessarily a situation where we specifically picked NOW to have it in place, what happened is it was only earlier recently when we had our application to FEMA approved for the program guides and FAQ's and all of that. But summer is a good time to have this available since summer is prime storm season, especially in Kansas and surrounding states, so we want to encourage as many people as possible to apply.”

For those thinking of putting a safe room together, Bunting said it makes sense for people to use a rebate like the one offered through the program. 

“If you're thinking about putting in a safe room anyway, why not take advantage of the aforementioned rebate and save some money on your project?” Bunting said  “What's going to happen on June 20 is we're going to take all the names we have, and there will be a randomized, computerized drawing, and we'll give the residents chosen 30 days to fully decide whether or not they'll take advantage of the program and after that, they'll have a certain amount of time in which to build their safe room. The program is here to help people, and the main benefit of having the safe room is having that protection from you and your family, which is something every family needs when severe weather comes through.”

Bunting added the program will be ongoing. 

“As funding keeps becoming available, we'll keep putting money into the program,” Bunting said. “With this cycle, we'll be drawing names June 20 and have everyone notified by June 25, and then we'll have another grant program open up also related to shelter spaces. So it'll be an ongoing program for people to have the chance to use. It makes us feel great because this is going directly to Kansans. Typically, with something like this, it has to go through city or county leadership, but this program is something that we're using to reach out directly to citizens, so that makes us feel phenomenal. Then as far as do's and don'ts, some of those were already mentioned, and other things include the vendor has to be an NSSA (National Storm Shelter Association) member, that's non-negotiable. And, the safe room can be inside or outside the home, as long as it's within 150 feet of the home. I highly encourage anyone interested in applying to read the program handbook, including the FAQ's, and apply for this, there are a lot of potential questions answered in there.”

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