From the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
As the calendar flips to May, it marks the beginning of National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Not quite five years removed from the devastating impact of Hurricane Michael, Panama City Beach does not need to be reminded about the importance of being prepared, but with information available from various sources, it can be hard to discern the best steps to take.
Based on decades of field and lab research, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has released its 2023 Hurricane Ready guides featuring preparedness tips to help home and business owners strengthen their properties against storms. IBHS research shows resilient construction and re-roofing can significantly reduce the risk of storm damage. The nonprofit research organization has also identified some low-cost DIY projects that can help any building better withstand high winds and heavy rain.
“One of the things we note when investigating storms is that homeowners can do things to reduce the likelihood and severity of storm damage,” said Dr. Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist at IBHS. “Even with Hurricane Ian, which caused extreme damage due to storm surge, we saw limited wind damage in homes built after 2002, when the Florida Building Code was first adopted. Amid the overall destruction, this positive result helps show that we are not powerless against Mother Nature.”
While some of the projects included in the Hurricane Ready guides can be done prior to an impending storm, IBHS encourages people to begin now to ensure projects can be completed by June 1, the traditional start of hurricane season.
First Line of Defense: The Roof
IBHS analysis shows that as much as 90% of all disaster-related insurance claims include damage to the roof, and that oftentimes relatively minor roof damage leads to extensive interior repairs. One way to reduce the risk posed by high winds is to identify existing damage or wear on your roof. Most roofing contractors will provide an inspection, sometimes at no cost, and then make necessary repairs. If it is time for roof replacement due to age or existing damage, reroof to the FORTIFIED standard. Based on decades of the nonprofit’s research, FORTIFIED is a voluntary construction and reroofing method requiring third-party verification of the key elements that strengthen roofs against severe weather. Lab studies and real-world events show FORTIFIED prevents damage from high winds up to 130 mph.
Wind-Rated Garage Doors
Garage doors represent another common source of “cascading damage” during hurricanes or other severe weather events. When the largest opening in most buildings fails, pressure can build inside the garage and push up on the roof and out against surrounding walls. This can lead to major structural damage and even collapse. In this area, property owners should have wind-resistant garage doors with a rating of at least 130 mph. If a garage door is not labeled as wind resistant, it should be replaced or at least reinforced to provide needed protection.
While a stronger roof and garage door will significantly help to reduce the risk of storm damage, other more budget-friendly steps can be taken, as well. Hurricane Ready suggests sealing gaps and cracks to keep wind-driven rain from intruding into a home or business. Other actions like securing soffits and trimming trees can also help to limit damage caused by wind.
Know Your Codes
Modern and enforced building codes are critical to reducing the damage and destruction caused by hurricanes each year. Florida ranks atop IBHS’s Rating the States which examines building codes in 18 Gulf Coast and Atlantic states and grades them based on adoption, enforcement, and contractor licensing.
While Florida’s building codes have been among the nation’s strongest for the past 20 years, they have improved over time. Therefore, a home built “to-code” in 2005 does not have the same level of protection as a home built in 2023. One key example is the sealed roof deck, which only became part of Florida’s statewide code last year. Homes built or reroofed prior to that are missing this important level of protection that IBHS studies show can stop escalating damage which often leads to expensive repairs and homeowner displacement.
“If your home wasn’t built or re-roofed to the newest code, you can make it stronger,” Giammanco added. “If your budget doesn’t allow bigger ticket items like a new roof or garage door, something as simple as trimming trees could help to make your home better protected. The most important thing is to take the first step.”
Visit www.disastersafety.org for the full Hurricane Ready guides and downloadable checklists to schedule and track progress.