Transcript for Oklahoma Basement Myth - Mike Hancock

Anne Strainchamps: Oklahoma is famous for tornados. And the safest place to be in a tornado is a basement. Right? But in Oklahoma they don't have many basements. In fact, only three percent of homes have them. Why? Because for a long the people Oklahoma have believed that you can't build basements in their soil. That's not actually true. But try convincing anyone in Oklahoma of that. Producer Charles Monroe-Kane called Mike Hancock, a guy with a tough job. He's a basement contractor in Edmond, OK.

Charles Monroe Monroe-Kane: Mike, why do you think people have this mindset? Why aren't people building basements? I mean, they would be safer if they did.

Mike Hancock: People would be safer if they could build, if they would build basements. Absolutely. 100%.

Monroe-Kane: And they can, because you've built 800 of them.

Hancock: And they can, and we've built a lot of them. That's true.

Monroe-Kane: Not to get to dark, but about a year ago--we're coming up on the anniversary here--in Moore, OK. Hancock: Absolutely.

Monroe-Kane: The city was devastated. Everyone had to rebuild.

Hancock: Yes.

Monroe-Kane: I'm afraid I'm going to answer this question, but did they rebuild with basements?

Hancock: Of, of the 8,000 plus houses and structures that were actually taken out down there I received basically two calls for "let's look at the option of doing a basement." We're literally going to be putting a small basement, if you want to call it that's really not a true basement like you would think of in Wisconsin or in Kanasas City or in Chicago. It literally a storm shelter type of basement that's a 20x20 so they can go down during the storm. Out of all of that I'm only going to do one.

Monroe-Kane: You're only going to do one.

Hancock: I'm going to do one.

Monroe-Kane: Now, there's a government subsidy from the state of Oklahoma that pays for basements, right?

Hancock: There is a government subsidy and there has been in the past also, in 2006 I believe we had another tornado through the Moore area and there was a government subsidy that actually did contribute to paying for storm shelters and basements.

Monroe-Kane: Mike, I gotta admit. It blows my mind. Doesn't it blow your mind?

Hancock: It does. It really is frustrating. It's very very frustrating to go to talk to people everyday. I mean a good example is we'll be at the Chesapeake arena where the Oklahoma City Thunder play basketball. And they're playing basketball in the basement of the arena and the guy next to me will say you can't put basements in Oklahoma.

Monroe-Kane: Chjeez...

 Hancock: And you just...I ask him, "Well, where'd you park?" "I parked next door in the Cox Convention Center." Well that's in the basement of the Cox Convention Center. It's just like, and they'll still say you can't do that.

Monroe-Kane: Now that's gotta be....that is a hell of a myth, isn't it? A hell of a myth that turns down free money and could save your family. That is a myth. You're not from Oklahoma are you?

Hancock: Uh, no. I am not for Oklahoma originally. I am from Kansas originally. And we all have basements in every house. 150 miles north of here every house has a basement in it. In Oklahoma you just cross this magic border and it says, "Oh, we gotta change our mindset and do something completely different here." And and I don't know where it truly comes from, but it is truly a mindset that is really hard to, to break. You know, if everybody says no, then that must be the way it is, because that has to be real and that has to be the facts. Instead of doing your research and checking in to it a lot of people just go, "Oh it's easier for me and it's real simple for me to just go with the crowd." Versus going against the crowd and saying, "I want to do a basement."

Anne Strainchamps: Mike Hancock builds basements in Edmond, OK. He talked with Charles Monroe Cain.

Comments for this interview

Oklahoma basement myth (susanpub, 09/07/2014 - 11:11am)

Why do people act like that (denial)? Because Oklahomans are stupid! Sorry, but it's mostly true. Backward place.
I live in Tulsa.

Seems incomplete journalism. (Anonymous, 05/21/2014 - 6:30am)

Seems incomplete journalism.