MEMA offers 'safe room' grants for storm counties

PEARL – Residents of Mississippi counties affected by the storms of April 24 and May 1-2 may be eligible for grants to help build interior storm shelters through the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s “A Safe Place to Go” program.
Northeast Mississippi counties covered by the program are Alcorn, Benton, Lafayette, Monroe, Oktibbeha, Tippah, Tishomingo and Union.
Residents of Attala, Choctaw, Holmes, Warren and Yazoo counties in central Mississippi are also eligible. Priority will be given to those whose homes were damaged or destroyed, but other residents may apply as well.
“We hope people take advantage of this opportunity to help protect themselves from future storms,” said MEMA Director Mike Womack.
In Benton County, where two people were killed by a May 2 tornado, “we’ve had tons of people who’ve asked about the storm shelter program,” said emergency management coordinator Wesley Stanton.
“MEMA just opened that program,” Stanton said Thursday. “It’s a simple, easy application.”
Rather than funding in-ground or reinforced above-ground storm shelters, the new schedule of grants will pay up to 75 percent of the cost, up to $4,000, for “safe rooms,” which are small, windowless rooms built inside a home to be easily accessible for an entire family.
Properly engineered safe rooms can withstand winds and debris moving up to 250 mph. To be eligible for reimbursement, safe rooms must be built according to FEMA plans, which are available online at www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/saferoom/ shplans/.

How to apply for “Safe Place”
– Residents of eligible counties can apply for the “Safe Place to Go” subsidies through their county emergency management coordinator, online at www.msema.org or by calling (866) 519-MEMA.

Coming Sunday:
Two months after deadly tornadoes struck
Northeast Mississippi, families try to put their lives back to normal, or close to it. Staff writers Lena Mitchell and Errol Castens report.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal