New Podcast: Ready, Set, ShakeOut!

When there’s a fire, you likely know to Stop, Drop, and Roll, but do you know how to Drop, Cover, and Hold On when an earthquake occurs? Unlike other natural disasters, earthquakes do not have seasons. They can strike without warning, so it is essential to know how to protect yourself, your family, and your employees. That’s where the Great ShakeOut comes in.

Mark Benthien, SCEC

This week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! guest is Mark Benthien, Director of Communication, Education, and Outreach at the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) and global ShakeOut advisor. Mark shares the straight story on how to prepare for earthquakes, how to reduce losses, and how to host or participate in a ShakeOut Earthquake Drill.

Topics Include:

  • Educational Background: Passion for helping the public prepare for an earthquake (0:52 – 3:18)
  • SCEC Outreach: Public programs and internship opportunities for the next generation (3:21 – 4:31)
  • History: The Earthquake Country Alliance and collaboration (4:31 – 6:32)
  • ShakeOut: Scenario-based exercises/drills help emergency management, public prepare (6:32 – 8:11)
  • Social Science ShakeOut: What motivates people to take action? (10:21 – 12:15)
  • Fact vs. Fiction: Knowing how today’s myth can be yesterday’s advice (13:52 – 16:52)
  • Drill: Conduct ShakeOut Earthquake Drills differently for all situations (home, work, school) (17:50 – 25:22)
  • The Future: International ShakeOut direction (26:19 – 28:39)

Click here to listen to this week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast episode and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. Don’t miss these helpful resources and links too:

While we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ask what we can do to strengthen our resilience. Remember, disasters don’t wait; make a plan and register for ShakeOut here.

Just in case you missed our previous Strong Homes, Safe Families! episodes:

  1. #HurricaneStrong and the 2020 Season feat. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham
  2. The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters feat. Tim Robinson, Managing Partner of Global Protection Products and President of the International Hurricane Protection Association
  3. Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow feat. Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coast-between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City
  4. #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money feat. Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong feat. Amanda Chase, State Farm Insurance Agent in Winter Park, Florida
  6. Take Steps Today for a Smooth Hurricane Claim Process Tomorrow feat. Elizabeth Gulick, VP of Claims Operations for USAA
  7. Dr. Anne Cope on Science That Makes Us #HurricaneStrong feat. Anne Cope, Ph.D., PE, Chief Engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS)

New Podcast: Dr. Anne Cope on Science That Makes Us #HurricaneStrong

Have you ever heard that closing your doors can limit damage in a windstorm? Do you know how many bathtubs worth of wind-driven water comes through an unprotected roof? Can you explain why something as innocuous as a soffit is relevant to the fate of your home? And, by the way, what exactly is a soffit?

If you want answers to these questions and more, this is the podcast for you.

Anne-Cope

Dr. Anne Cope, Chief Engineer, IBHS

My guest this week for Strong Homes, Safe Families! is Anne Cope, Ph.D., PE, Chief Engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). Anne is a member of the FLASH Technical Advisory Council, fellow UF Gator, and a great friend. We cover a lot of topics in this recording from science to policy and policy to practice, and I am sure you will find her engaging style not only enjoyable but insightful too.

This information is part of our effort to demystify the basics of a #HurricaneStrong home, so you and your family are ready when the next threat comes. Check out some topic highlights and timecodes below, but I recommend that you hit play, sit back, and enjoy!

  • How a passion for science created a professional journey. (0:54)
  • The importance of garage doors. (4:16)
  • Surprise! Research shows how shutting doors will limit damage. (5:28)
  • After ten years, what’s on tap at the IBHS lab? (7:41)
  • Ninety-percent of the time, significant house damage begins with garage door failure. (9:52)
  • Soffits: What do we need to know about the roof’s Achilles heel? (13:30)
  • Tech Tools and Toys: Practical use of drones to detect problems. (17:31)
  • Public Policy: Building codes, resilience, and the sealed roof deck. (19:37)
  • Water Intrusion: How much water can a hurricane push through your roof? Hint: we’re talking in terms of bathtubs. (20:15)
  • Natural Disaster Research, Reports, and Risk Communication: Find the findings and shine a light on them. (23:41)

Combined IBHS Lab and Fan Image

Click here to listen to this week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast episode, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. Don’t miss these helpful resources and links too:

Dr. Anne Cope – Biography (Here)
The IBHS Lab (Here)
Research on value of shutting doors (Here)
Research on garage doors (Here)
Roof Strengthening Checklist (Here)
Soffit Strengthening Checklist (Here)
Protecting Openings – Shutter Types/Cost Checklist (Here)

Just in case you missed our previous Strong Homes, Safe Families! episodes:

  1. #HurricaneStrong and the 2020 Season feat. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham
  2. The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters feat. Tim Robinson, Managing Partner of Global Protection Products and President of the International Hurricane Protection Association
  3. Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow feat. Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coast-between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City
  4. #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money feat. Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong feat. Amanda Chase, State Farm Insurance Agent in Winter Park, Florida
  6. Take Steps Today for a Smooth Hurricane Claim Process Tomorrow feat. Elizabeth Gulick, VP of Claims Operations for USAA

New Podcast: Take Steps Today for a Smooth Hurricane Claim Process Tomorrow

Hurricane season is here. Are you fully prepared by having the right insurance? Do you have a home inventory to go along with your policy? Did you know that a detailed written, photographic, or video inventory of your belongings is the most effective way to plan for a claim?

Elizabeth Gulick

Elizabeth Gulick, VP of Claims Operations – USAA

This week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! expert guest is Elizabeth Gulick, Vice President of Claims Operations for USAA and member of the FLASH Board of Directors. Elizabeth shares her experience on the best way to create a home insurance inventory and much more. She highlights consumer protection safeguards to follow as you’re going through the repair and rebuilding process, and many critical steps to ensure you’re ready should it happen ever again.

With Elizabeth’s excellent insights and our newest checklist (click here), you can ensure any future claims run smoothly. When you do, you will be on your way to #HurricaneStrong.

Topics:

  • After thirty-plus years responding to disasters (1:40), what is it like after a catastrophe strikes? (2:55)
  • Recover, Rebuild, Resolve: Understanding USAA’s commitment to resilience (4:25)
  • How does the insurance claim process work? (7:19)
  • What are some tips for choosing a contractor? (9:31)
  • What is a home inventory, and why is it critical? (11:14)
  • What are the five steps to help prepare for a claim? (11:38)
  • Now that the claim is complete, what do I do next? (15:56)

Click here to listen to this week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast episode, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. You can learn more about insurance and mitigation by downloading A Homeowners Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters or emailing your questions to info@flash.org today.

Just in case you missed our previous Strong Homes, Safe Families! episodes:

  1. #HurricaneStrong and the 2020 Season feat. National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham
  2. The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters feat. Tim Robinson, Managing Partner of Global Protection Products and President of the International Hurricane Protection Association
  3. Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow feat. Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coast-between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City
  4. #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money feat. Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina
  5. Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong feat. Amanda Chase, State Farm Insurance Agent in Winter Park, Florida

New Podcast: Have an Insurance Checkup and Make Your Policy #HurricaneStrong

Are you in the dark about what your insurance policy will provide after a hurricane? Did you know that you may have coverage for food that spoils when the power fails even if your home isn’t damaged? Moreover, did you know that food spoilage coverage is often deductible-free?

Are you aware that a special, separate policy is required to cover flood? Did you know that flood policies have a 30-day waiting period? Will your coverage limits provide enough to repair and rebuild if your home is damaged?

These are the kinds of questions that you can answer during an annual insurance checkup to keep your policy current and keep you in the know before hurricanes strike.

Amanda Chase

Amanda Chase, State Farm Agent

This week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast interview and checklist (click here) focus on the insurance checkup or annual review—your way to make your policy #HurricaneStrong. My expert guest for this podcast is Amanda Chase, a State Farm insurance agent in Winter Park, Florida.

Topics Include:

  • Financial Security: Having the resources to repair and recover from hurricanes
  • Insurance Checkup: Review policies, obtain advice on coverage and updates
  • Hurricane Deductibles: How they work, when they kick in
  • Understand Exclusions and Eliminate Surprises: What a policy pays for (and doesn’t)
  • Capitalize on Building Codes: Save money on insurance with discounts for good building practices, safety features and more
  • Consumer Survey and COVID-19: More ready to get prepared to shelter at home safely
  • Power Outage Coverage: Reimbursement for loss of use and food spoilage
  • Control Uncontrollables: Know answers to questions to not fear the unknown

Click here to listen to this week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast episode, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes. Learn more about insurance and mitigation by downloading A Homeowners Insurance Guide to Natural Disasters or emailing your question to info@flash.org.

New Podcast: #HurricaneStrong Home Hacks that Save Time and Money

Strengthening our homes for hurricane season to ensure damage prevention is more important than ever this year due to COVID-19 and the potential need for social distancing.

This week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast, checklists (click here), and feature video (click here) provide information about affordable ways to get your home #HurricaneStrong, so you and your family are ready for the already-busy season.

6-6-20 Soffits Fan Graphic Twitter V2

My guest expert for this podcast discussion is Bill Ferimer, Lowe’s Store Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina. This 15-minute discussion will get you well on your way.

 

Bill Ferimer

Bill Ferimer, Store Manager – Lowe’s

Topics Include:

  • Resilience: How to remain #HurricaneStrong, and bounce back from natural disasters
  • Damage Prevention – Steps to weather the wind and water:
    • Roof: Use caulking inside the attic for added strength
    • Soffits: Use caulking to ensure that soffits stay in place when it matters most
    • Openings: Use hurricane shutters to protect doors and windows
  • Timing: Prepare for hurricanes now and take strengthening your home seriously
  • #HurricaneStrong Survey: Increased intent to prepare
  • Projectiles: Around the yard, remove or anchor items such as swing sets to prevent damage
  • Gutters and Downspouts: Clean, clear, and functioning properly to direct water flow
  • Prep Kits: Must-haves include gutter tools, tarps, nails, hammers, ladders, buckets, chainsaws, and necessary accessories
  • Sandbags: Redirect stormwater and debris away from your home

How to Clean Gutters Image

Click here to listen to this week’s Strong Homes, Safe Families! podcast episode, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate, share, and provide a review on iTunes.

New Podcast: Skills + Supplies Today = Safety and Survival Tomorrow

What’s in your hurricane supply kit? Do you have what you need to make repairs after a storm? Can you safely operate a generator? How about a chainsaw?

5-27-20 Disaster Supply Checklist Graphic Final

This week’s podcast with checklists (click here) and videos provides the refresher you need to make sure you are #HurricaneStrong and ready for the June 1 start of hurricane season. My guest expert for this discussion on episode three of Strong Homes, Safe Families! is Sean Reilly, District Manager for Lowe’s along North and South Carolina coasts⁠—between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City. In this interview, Sean talks about the importance of individual and family preparedness by having adequate disaster know-how, supplies, and equipment.

Sean Reilly

Sean Reilly, District Manager – Lowe’s

Topics Include:

  • Front and Center: Sean’s fair share of storm experiences and hurricane challenges
  • Store Environment: Hurricane watches and potential for landfall sets the mood
  • People and Preparation: Lowe’s guides customers, associates, and communities
  • Think Outside the Box/Kit: People tend to forget other essentials, including a home battery phone charger, extra gasoline, and charcoal or propane to cook food
  • Sentimental Storage: Save pictures, videos, and documentation in waterproof areas
  • Equipment: Know how to safely use portable generators, chainsaws, and other tools

Generator with ButtonChainsaw with button

 

 

 

Please click here to listen to this week’s episode.

For those of you in Florida, don’t forget the Florida Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday is Friday, May 29 through Thursday, June 4, so it’s a great time to save on your supplies. If you’re stocking up at Lowe’s, look for the #HurricaneStrong signs in the store or visit www.HurricaneStrong.org to learn more.  

5-27-20 Lowe's Signage

 

New Podcast: The Scoop on Hurricane Shutters

Capture

Before Mother Nature heads your way, are you prepared for hurricane season? My guest for Episode Two on Strong Homes, Safe Families! is Tim Robinson, managing partner of Global Protection Products and president of the International Hurricane Protection Association. In this interview Tim tells us everything you need to know to choose the right hurricane shutters for your home.

Topics Include:

  • About Tim: Firefighter, businessman, and philanthropist
  • Opening Protection: Windows, glass doors, and older openings
  • Code/Testing Requirements: Change is inevitable when building impact-rated products
  • Two Test Types: Wind cycle and impact resistance to approve products
  • Options: What are they? How are they mounted? How much do they cost?
  • Galvanized steel vs. aluminum panel
  • Clear or polycarbonate storm panel
  • Fabric panel
  • Accordion shutter
  • Roll-up shutter
  • Hinged-colonial or Bahama shutter
  • ROI: Insurance savings and discounts
  • Lessons Learned: No matter what shutter system is selected, maintain it regularly

Please click here to listen to this week’s episode and don’t miss our new Hurricane Shutter Comparison Checklist (click here).

Tim RobinsonTim Robinson, Managing Partner – Global Protection Products 

New Podcast: NHC Director Ken Graham – Getting #HurricaneStrong Ahead of the 2020 Season

Ken Graham
Ken Graham, Director – National Hurricane Center

Are you prepared to protect your family and home before hurricane season hits? Will you be able to bounce back swiftly? My guest this week on Strong Homes, Safe Families! is Ken Graham from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, and he shares plenty of insights about how to stay safe.

Ken and I talk about the science, public policy, and practice of being better prepared for hurricanes, including a discussion of COVID-19. Please click here to listen to this week’s episode.

Topics Include:

  • Rising Water Evacuation: Why and when Ken decided to become a meteorologist
  • Disaster Resilience: Bouncing back to recover quickly from a hurricane is possible
  • Science: Meteorological breakthrough with track forecast and ability to narrow errors
  • Public Policy: Best practices to be resilient by knowing when and where to evacuate
  • Practice: Risk communication, perception, decision-making, and other human factors
  • Tech Tools: People flee storms, but hurricane hunters use technology to collect data
  • Preparation: Positive impact due to COVID-19 pandemic

“Little wiggles in the forecast matter. Everyone listening needs to understand that a 20- or 40-mile wiggle can make the difference to someone on the ground experiencing a foot of storm surge or maybe ten of feet storm surge.” – Ken Graham

LCH and Ken Graham

National Weather Service New Orleans/Baton Rouge team members, Ken Graham, and Leslie Chapman-Henderson strike the #HurricaneStrong “Pose”

Research Finds Consumer Overconfidence Regarding Building Codes in Disaster-Exposed Communities

Nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) announces a research-informed initiative to address missing or outdated building codes across the United States

Building Code Statistic Graphic Shareable

The nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® Partnership today announced consumer research findings and analysis underpinning a new transparency initiative entitled, No Code. No Confidence. Inspect to Protect.org. The organization created the effort after consumer surveys revealed that Americans are highly confident that building codes are already “in place” even though most communities at-risk for disaster are without necessary structural codes and standards for safe and optimal building performance.

The new commentary Why Americans Aren’t Concerned About Building Codes (even though they should be), outlines the research effort and introduces InspectToProtect.org—a new website that provides current residential building code statuses in an easy-to-understand format. The paper previews new Public Service Announcements, animations, and other program elements as well.

Two separate tracks informed to the campaign creation. First, behavior-focused studies indicated that while most consumers are not concerned or interested in codes, they strongly rejected the idea that codes may be absent or inadequate. Moreover, eight of ten assumed, incorrectly, that they are at least moderately protected by building codes. Another two-thirds of those surveyed indicated they would be very or extremely concerned to learn they had no code at all using words such as terrified to describe the scenario.

A companion effort focused on engineering analysis of residential building codes in more than twenty-three thousand U.S. cities and towns facing floods, high wind, hurricane, seismic, or tornado hazards. The analysis revealed that only 7,265 of the 23,000 communities had building codes with disaster-resistant provisions incorporated for both commercial and residential codes. This means that 69% of evaluated U.S. communities facing one or more of the above-described hazards is doing so without the benefit of current, relevant structural building codes.

“The research validates what we have always believed. Consumers are largely unaware of the dangerous gap between building code adoption, enforcement, and disaster risk,” said FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “They do not understand that they may live in a community without the protection of current, modern building codes and standards. That is why we’re providing them with a way to find out where they stand.”

InspectToProtect.org allows consumers to identify the building codes used in their community currently by inputting their address to see a map with a color-coded analysis of red, yellow, green, or black. The colors indicate residential code versions based on the best available, verified national data, and reflect the status of International Residential Code (IRC) model adoption. Consumers should contact their local building or planning department to learn about the code enforcement requirements as well as they may be voluntary, mandatory, or nonexistent.

“The best way to predict home performance before a disaster is to understand how it was built,” said Chapman-Henderson. “That’s why we are bringing this information out in the open. The No Code. No Confidence. initiative and InspectToProtect.org website are unprecedented efforts to de-complicate building codes for consumers and empower them with the knowledge to better prepare for severe weather events and natural disasters.”

Today, FLASH is launching a communication campaign to promote the new initiative. The campaign includes thought-provoking Public Service Announcements like the “Four-way Stop”, and a 2D movie trailer animation depicting the “Tale of Two Towns.” Social media advertising will help drive consumers to the website as well.

The project is a multi-year effort and new elements and data will be continuously incorporated.

Learn more at www.flash.org, email to Zoe@flash.org, or call (877) 221-SAFE (7233).

About FLASH

The nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) is the country’s leading consumer advocate for strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and manmade disasters. The FLASH partnership includes more than 100 innovative and diverse organizations that share a vision of making America a more disaster-resilient nation including: BASF Corporation, FEMA, Florida Division of Emergency Management, Huber Engineered Woods, International Code Council, ISO, Lowe’s, National Weather Service, Portland Cement Association, Simpson Strong-Tie, State Farm, and USAA. In 2008, FLASH, and Disney opened the interactive weather experience StormStruck: A Tale of Two Homes, in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Learn more about FLASH and access free consumer resources by visiting http://www.flash.org, calling toll-free (877) 221- SAFE (7233), following @federalalliance on Twitter, on Facebook.com/federalalliance, and the FLASH blog – Protect Your Home in a FLASH.

Six Common Sense Imperatives for Better Home Building

iStock-660328504.jpg

How transparency, policy reform, and better construction can drive resilience in disaster-prone regions across the U.S.

Two days after Hurricane Michael, I told The Washington Post, “We have evidence that we can construct affordable housing that is resilient.” I shared home survival stories from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and pointed up how affordably-built houses often outperform more expensive structures when tested by disasters. The intrepid Post reporters went on to locate and showcase a current case where five homes built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers in the Florida Panhandle survived Hurricane Michael, a nearly Category Five storm.

The stunning front page story surprised some with clear and convincing proof that we can build resiliently in the face of disaster by using simple, affordable concepts. The national story helped families understand that everyone can have a disaster-resistant home.

We need more coverage like the Post story to help spread the word about affordable home resilience and many other common-sense basics of disaster safety. We need public and leadership support for meaningful changes that can help move the U.S. past the current home building model of “Build-Destroy-Rebuild” to one where we “Build to Last” instead.

This week, I will open our 2018 National Disaster Resilience Conference by offering six tactics to improve how homes perform in disaster zones. Some of these are surprisingly simple. Some are already in place. All are ready for implementation today.

 Increasing Consumer Transparency

  1. Individual Home Ratings

In 2006, our organization, the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), designed and implemented the $25 million pilot for the landmark $250 million My Safe Florida Home wind retrofit program. As part of that work, we designed an inspection-based, high-wind rating for homes using a 1 to 100 scale that was used in more than 400,000 inspections. The Florida Legislature liked the home score concept so much that they passed a law to require its inclusion during real estate closings. Sadly, the law was quietly repealed the following year at the urging of industries opposed to transparency, but the concept lives on.

Americans understand rating systems whether they are for cholesterol, cars, or schools. It’s time we add homes to the list. Today, we have much better data to create this system, and we can rate homes for all types of features from energy efficiency to durability, earthquake/flood/high-wind resistance, and more. We stand ready to support the effort.

  1. Home Construction – Basic Disclosures

Every home should have a permanently mounted identification plate next to the circuit breaker box that states:

  • Year Built and Permitted
  • Year of Model Building Code Used (if any) and Indication of Weakening Amendments Present Yes/No
  • Builder Name, Contact Information, and License # (if any)
  • Building Inspector Name, Contact Information, and License # (if any)

These things sound mundane, but when it comes to real estate, these details are often buried in closing documents instead of conveniently showcased like a handy sticker on our car door. Why does it matter? Several reasons. First, the best predictor of home performance in an earthquake, hurricane, or any disaster will be understanding which (if any) code was used. Next, when names and products are aligned, professional accountability often follows. Having the builder’s and building inspector’s name listed can not only inspire consistency, but it can improve performance too.

Lastly, unlike cars, buyers of existing homes may not have easy access to details about home systems. Knowing how to find the builder will make it simpler for new owners to learn about and maintain their purchase for the long haul.

  1. Disaster History Database

Trulia.com now includes a feature called “Hazard Maps” to help prospective home buyers evaluate value through the prism of potential for future disaster losses. The feature provides colored maps reflecting presence of earthquake, flooding, hurricane, tornado, and wildfire hazards.

Why not a similar feature that discloses past disaster losses for each home on an individual basis?

High-quality, granular “Big Data” about disaster and insurance claims already exists. We would like to see it leveraged and added as a featured disclosure on the MLS system, as well as websites like Trulia and Zillow.

This recommendation is simple, understandable, and powerful in its benefit for consumers to make informed buying decisions. We already have CARFAX. Could HouseFax be next?

Strengthening Public Policy

  1. Timely Adoption and Enforcement of Modern, Model Building Codes

Believe it or not, many communities are still built without the benefit of current model building codes and reliable enforcement practices to ensure consistent residential construction quality. Moreover, many state and local governments adopt model codes only to weaken or ignore their mandates.

Building codes provide the minimum safety standard for a structure, so it is critical that we use them, but why aren’t consumers worried about this?

For years, we speculated that consumers are not concerned about building codes because they don’t understand that they may not have them. This year, we researched that theory and we are correct. Our survey revealed that consumers are not worried about codes because they assume, incorrectly, that local leaders would never allow building without safety standards. Moreover, they expressed strong conviction that home builders that oppose codes are “shoddy” (their words).

I think our study says it all, and we will have more to share about it in the coming months. In the meantime, leaders need only look to the Hurricane Michael devastation in the Florida Panhandle to see the long-term consequences of short-term thinking when it comes to weakening building codes.

Upgrading Existing Homes

  1. Home Inspection and Retrofitting Grants

As part of the same My Safe Florida Home pilot program described above, we developed the first large-scale  U.S. wind retrofitting grant program that allowed for improvements to (1) opening protection (shutters or replacement of windows, doors, gable vents, soffits of a certain size); (2) roofing (enhanced roof deck attachment, secondary water barrier or underlayment, and high-wind/impact-resistant roof coverings); (3) reinforcement of gable ends, attached structures (porches), or more.

At its conclusion, the matching grants helped 35,000 Florida families strengthen their homes for future hurricanes. It inspired similar public programs in other hurricane-prone states, and private market retrofit financing programs as well.

The concept makes great sense once you understand that most of existing U.S. housing stock was built before the advent of modern, model codes. As such, we recommend that states and local governments begin to inventory and identify options for strengthening older homes against whatever hazards they face today. This can be done in conjunction with other housing programs that address affordable housing and energy efficiency.

When you think about the relative difficulty of strengthening existing homes as opposed to building it right the first time, enforcing strong model building codes for new construction makes even more sense.

  1. Rebuilding with Resilience in Mind

Large scale disasters bring massive rebuilding and recovery efforts that last for years and often decades. Whether a home is damaged by a loss such as house fire, or in a natural disaster like a hurricane, recovery efforts present a meaningful opportunity to upgrade homes with resilience in mind.

However, aside from coverage for mandatory law and ordinance upgrades, homeowner insurance contracts generally provide only for a return to pre-loss status. While this is understandable and consistent with the principles of insurance, it means that rebuilding after a loss typically excludes meaningful ways to strengthen housing stock before the next disaster occurs.

As a result, resilience upgrades like bracing cripple walls, enhancing roof connection systems, installing impact- and wind-resistant roof coverings, and stronger entry doors, or upgrading to wildfire-resistant materials become optional and must be paid for by the homeowner. Often, enhancements are beyond the financial reach of a family as they work to recover from the loss.

Ironically, the difference between the insurance-funded repairs and the cost of disaster-resilient upgrades is often manageable, but no systematic program exists to inform homeowners of resilience upgrade options, provide or identify funding to bridge the gap between claims proceeds and optional upgrades, or support the retrofitting and rebuilding through to conclusion.

We suggest that mitigation upgrade programs for families residing or rebuilding in disaster zones can be funded with both private donations or public funds, e.g., the FEMA Pre-disaster Mitigation (PDM) program expanded as part of the newly enacted federal Disaster Recovery Reform Act.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety Fortified program offers “beyond-code” methods for high wind and other hazards. In fact, Fortified provided the construction recipe used on the surviving homes examined by The Washington Post in the above-referenced story. Bridging the cost gap between insurance proceeds and resilience upgrades like those outlined in Fortified closes the distance between status quo and resilience for recovering families.

We know it can work because we piloted one of the first such programs in tornado-stricken Moore, Oklahoma and Louisville, Mississippi in 2012. As a result, 225 low-income families there now have tornado shelters, as well as peace of mind. We called it, “The Resilience Fund.” The model is ready and replicable.

Conclusion

We have shared the above ideas through service on councils, reform commissions, task forces, and FLASH programming since 1998. Individually, any one of these can improve home building quality. Some of them already do.

We offer these measures again today to continue the conversation around our movement’s “rethink” of how we build in the wake of the 2017 and 2018 disasters. After twenty years in the trenches, we know that increasing consumer transparency and building with risk in mind will reduce deaths and prevent losses before disasters strike. Further, we know that policy reforms deliver everyday benefits through more durable and energy-efficient structures as well.

What we don’t know is exactly how soon the next disaster will come. As such, there is no time to lose in making these options available for everyone, and we need the strong and growing cadre of industry and policy leadership champions to make it happen—today. When they do, home survival in disasters will become the rule, not the exception.