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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 22nd, 2013
05:50 PM ET

Community devastated by tornado lacked safe rooms

When a tornado with the force of an atomic bomb slams into a community as it did in Moore, Oklahoma, safe rooms can mean the difference between life and death.

That is why a lot of questions are being raised about why so many homes and buildings in Moore lacked safe rooms, including the two schools directly hit by Monday's tornado.

Jeff Rodgers had an $11,000 tornado safe room installed at his Shawnee, Oklahoma, house just a week ago. Four days later, the tornado passed by his backyard.

"From seeing the destruction at Moore, and seeing the destruction half a mile from us, you need to have a safe place to go in Oklahoma," said Rodgers.

Rodgers tried applying for federal money, but said he could not get it, so he paid for the safe room out of his own pocket. Residents in nearby Moore were not so fortunate.

Oklahoma officials said they have asked for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build shelters, but have been stymied by red tape for more than a year.

The city expressed its frustrations on its website in February, writing, "We've found that the FEMA requirements and their interpretations seem to be a constantly moving target."

City officials said FEMA allows grants after the president signs a disaster declaration, when it is too late.

FEMA spokesman Dan Watson  said Wednesday that FEMA has yet to receive plan. The agency said it has funded hundreds of safe rooms in the Oklahoma area, including many in the path of Monday's tornado.

"Over 10,000 have been built – more than any other state – but again, every time a disaster happens there's more calls for this. And it's not only the building of safe rooms, but making sure they are built to the right standards," said FEMA's Craig Fugate.

Andrew Zagorski, who built Rodgers' safe room, blames fraud, not FEMA, for slowing down the construction of more safe rooms throughout the area.

"It's sad to say there's been a lot of scam artists involved in this project. They were giving out rebates for the longest time. But FEMA pulled their money out of the state because it was going to cellars not safe rooms," Zagorski said.

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