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IDHS Residential Safe Room Program

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) Residential Safe Room Program was developed in 2015 by the IDHS Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program to provide a rebate for the construction/installation of safe rooms for Indiana residences. 

Safe rooms save lives. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries. A safe room provides a shield of protection. Studies demonstrate that a safe room can survive winds as high as 250 miles per hour. 

Indiana is providing this rebate program through the FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program. Therefore, IDHS must comply with all federal grant regulations for each rebate recipient. 

The program is not currently accepting applicants. Interested individuals may sign up for Safe Room program updates by email through GovDelivery.

Please read all safe room program rules and regulations carefully to ensure eligibility for a safe room rebate and to ensure applications meet all federal grant guidelines associated with this program. IDHS and FEMA must review each application and associated documentation submitted to ensure guidelines are met for each application entered in the lottery.

About Safe Roomstornado, map, tracking, IDHS, homeland security, intensity

A safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to meet FEMA criteria and provide “near-absolute protection” in extreme weather events. 

For the purposes of this program, the term safe room will include any above or below-ground residential shelter that meets or exceeds guidelines stated in the most recent versions of FEMA Publications 320 (Taking Shelter from the Storm) and FEMA 361 (Design and Construction Criteria for Community Safe Rooms), as well as ICC 500 (Standards for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters). 

FEMA 320 vs FEMA 361

FEMA 320 – provides guidance specifically aimed at homeowners, builders and contractors.

FEMA 361 – provides design/construction guidance primarily intended for registered design professionals 

For more information about safe rooms or to download a copy of these publications, which contain recommended construction plans for safe rooms, visit the FEMA website.

How the Residential Safe Room Program Works

This is a reimbursement program, therefore homeowners will pay the full cost for a safe room up front and then be reimbursed for up to 75 percent, with a maximum of $4,500, of the eligible costs to construct and install a FEMA compliant safe room at their residence. 

In the event that more applications are received than the agency is able to award, the program will use a random selection process to select names. This process will allow everyone who registers to have an equal chance to be selected. Only one person may register per physical home address.

The recipients will be notified after each application period has closed and the selection process has occurred. Recipients will be notified via the email address and/or phone number provided during registration. 

If Selected to Receive a Rebate – A Walk-Through of the Process

Homeowners selected to receive a rebate will be required to attend a mandatory safe room informational meeting to explain the rules and regulations of the program in more detail, as well as to answer any questions.  We will also discuss the various types, sizes, and locations of residential safe rooms.  There will be several of these meetings held throughout the state to accommodate all homeowners selected.

After attending the informational meeting, homeowners will have 30 days to select the type, size, and location of their safe room, and submit that information to IDHS for submission to FEMA.  Once a homeowner has submitted their safe room selections, they will not be able to make changes without IDHS approval.  In most cases, changes that are requested will not be permitted.

Upon award of the grant from FEMA, all approved homeowners will receive a “Notice to Proceed” via certified mail. This notice will lay out the guidelines that must be followed during the construction/installation of the approved safe room. Homeowners cannot enter into a contract or begin construction/installation of a safe room until the “Notice to Proceed” has been received.

Prior to beginning construction, homeowners will be required to obtain the necessary building and/or zoning permits through their local jurisdiction. If not required, a signed letter from the local jurisdiction stating this will be needed. 

Once the “Notice to Proceed” has been received, homeowners can begin the process of having their safe room constructed/installed. 

Upon completion of the safe room construction/installation, homeowners will be required to submit the following to IDHS:

  • The signed “Certificate of Installation”.
  • A local or state building permit and local zoning permit (if required).
  • Proof of local or state final building inspection (if required).
  • Contractor invoice and proof of payment in full.
  • Latitude/longitude for the location of the safe room, accurate to +/- 64 feet.
  • Before and after photos of the safe room construction site with sufficient background scenery to verify the safe room location on the property.

The submitted documents will then be reviewed by IDHS and FEMA before rebate checks can be remitted to homeowners. The rebate check typically takes 90 days to arrive after all documentation has been submitted and reviewed.

Eligibility Rules

Previously installed safe rooms, safe rooms currently under construction, or safe rooms scheduled to begin construction before receiving the “Notice to Proceed” are ineligible for this rebate.

Homeowners selected to receive a rebate may not design, build or install the safe room themselves.

house, damage, tornado, kokomo, indiana, department of homeland securityAny type of safe room is eligible for the rebate as long as it meets or exceeds the specifications set forth in the most recent versions of FEMA publications previously mentioned. Many local building codes require a permit and inspection by local building inspectors.

Additionally, a safe room may be installed in a new or existing home, either in an interior room or garage on the first floor, underground on the first floor, as a detached above-ground or underground safe room and within 100 feet of the home. Wherever it’s installed, the safe room should be readily accessible to all occupants.

Additional eligibility rules are as follows:

  • To be eligible, the safe room must be installed at primary residences and must be installed on property owned by the applicant. This safe room rebate program is for single-family homes only. 
    • Apartment complexes, duplexes and other multi-family residences are not eligible for this rebate, as they are considered businesses.
    • If an applicant owns two or more homes, they may only register for a safe room rebate for their primary residence.
    • If an applicant lives in a mobile home, they must own both the mobile home itself and the land it is located on to be eligible for the rebate.
    • Individuals living in a rented house are not eligible for this rebate.
  • Only one person may register per physical home address
  • Community or neighborhood safe rooms are not eligible for this rebate.
  • Retrofitting or repairing an existing storm shelter to meet FEMA specifications does not qualify. 
  • If the safe room is not a pre-fabricated or manufactured design, the applicant or their contractor may be required to submit additional documentation to verify the safe room meets all federal regulations associated with this program.
  • If the applicant lives on historic property, or in a historic district they may be eligible for the rebate. However, other agencies will have to approve the applicant’s specific situation. They may be required to provide more information.
  • Applicants must pay the total invoice for the safe room and installation in order to receive the rebate, as well as provide copies of the cleared check or credit card statement. 
  • Safe room lease agreements are not eligible.

Items to Think About

  • Any needed local permits must be obtained prior to construction.
  • What local zoning or building restriction may apply to the location of the safe room?
  • Are there any utility easements that could affect the placement of your safe room?
  • Does your property have a high water table that may cause some types of safe rooms to flood?
  • Will the proposed location of your underground safe room affect septic systems or leach lines?
  • The depth of bedrock can limit the placement of some types of safe rooms.

Additional Information

If you receive this rebate you will not have to claim it as income on your taxes. The safe room rebate is exempt from tax liability as a federally-funded assistance program.